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.
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”.