‘Hate has no place here’: 10,000 rally in Kassel against far-right violence

Following the far-right murder of local politician Walter Lübcke, locals rallied against right wing violence, which is said to be increasing in Germany.

'Hate has no place here': 10,000 rally in Kassel against far-right violence

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against right-wing violence in Kassel in Hesse on Thursday evening, according to police estimates. 

The rally followed the June 2nd murder of refugee-friendly politician Walter Lübcke in his home by alleged right-wing extremist Stephan Ernst.

Police discovered on Wednesday night that Ernst, a Kassel resident, had acquired weapons from from an alleged neo-Nazi supplier and an intermediary. Yet they are still investigating whether Ernst had ties to other extremist networks. 

An alliance of local organizations, institutions and companies were among the crowd calling for tolerance, democracy and peace – both in the central German state and throughout the country. 

Kassel's mayor Christian Geselle (SPD) speaking at the rally on Thursday. Photo: DPA

'We are peaceful'

Speaking at the rally, Kassel's mayor Christian Geselle (SPD) said: “We are not the swamp of the nation. We are peaceful, tolerant and cosmopolitan. Hate, agitation, terror and exclusion have no place here.” 

Yet Geselle warned that “we must tackle the challenges of integration and migration offensively and not remain silent,” adding that Germany would need to remain vigilant on a daily basis. 

His calls follow a revelation on Thursday by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CDU) that the number of right-wing extremists in Germany in Germany has grown in the past years. 

The number of known right-wing extremists throughout the country grew by 100 individuals last year to 24,100, compared to the 2017 figures, with 12,700 of them known to be violent.

“That is why I stress that we have a high-risk situation in this area,” Seehofer said.

The following graph produced by Statista for The Local breaks down right-wing violence in Germany in 2018. The number of politically motivated acts of right-wing violence in Hesse remain low compared to other German states, particularly in the eastern part of the country.

SEE ALSO: Five people victims of far-right hate crimes every day in eastern Germany

Thomas Bockelmann, the director of Kassel’s state theatre, said that right-wing extremists were able to unite anonymously against Lübcke on the internet.

After reading quotes which had circulated online about the local politician, both before and after his death, he spoke out against “cowardly people who wanted to feel powerful in the anonymity of the Internet”.

Hesse's Justice Minister Eva Kühne-Hörmann (CDU) also warned about how quickly hate can spread on the internet and “words can become deeds”.

She called the participation in the rally “a very strong signal”.

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German police probes threat to school named after neo-Nazi victim

German police said Tuesday they have launched an investigation into a threatening letter, apparently from the far-right, sent to a school named after a politician murdered by a neo-Nazi.

German police probes threat to school named after neo-Nazi victim
A ceremony for the naming of the Walter-Lübcke-Schule in Wolfhagen in September 2020. Photo: DPA

They said the Walter-Lübcke School in Wolfhagen, Hesse last week received a threatening letter signed “NSU 2.0”, in reference to a neo-Nazi cell that murdered immigrants between 2000 and 2007.

“Police took the threat seriously and in close agreement with the school's management took necessary measures,” police from the state of Hesse told AFP.

No suspicious objects were found at the school, police said, adding that there was no danger for staff or students.

Lübcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party who backed her pro-migrants stance, was shot dead by 47-year-old Stephan Ernst in 2019 in what was believed to be Germany's first far-right political assassination since World War II.

READ ALSO: 'I fired the shot': German neo-Nazi on trial over politician murder admits to killing

Ernst was sentenced to life in prison last Thursday, after the prosecution argued that he had been motivated by “racism and xenophobia”.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has declared far-right extremism the “biggest security threat facing Germany”.