Politicians in Thuringia: Insulted, threatened and attacked

As of: March 3, 2024 2:56 p.m

Thuringia is facing two important elections this year. But attacks on politicians’ offices and even on a private home cause horror. And the number of unreported cases is extremely high.

When the members of the Suhl Left city council group come together, they already suspect what is going on outside the party office: week after week, a small group of self-proclaimed Monday walkers, who are said to have connections to the right-wing extremist scene, move through the city at the same time.

The demonstrators often stop at the office, shout into the megaphone, knock on the window or place their banners in front of the entrance. This is how the city leader of the Left, Ronja Lenz, describes it: “We try to ignore it. We don’t feel safe.”

Lenz says that she feels left alone in view of the threat situation: The police know about it, and so does the city – nothing has happened so far. Although the rallies are not registered, they are tolerated by the authorities and accompanied by the police. The city justifies that the right to freedom of assembly is more important.

Series of attacks becomes an issue in the state parliament

There is also damage to property: it was only at the end of February that unknown people broke the window of the party office – for the second time in just a few months. Windows were also broken in the offices of the Suhl Greens and the SPD. In addition, there were piles of dung that were dumped in front of the party headquarters during the farmers’ protests.

What happened in Suhl is happening in many places across the country: party offices are attacked, officials and politicians are insulted and threatened – both on the street and online.

Two important elections this year

There are two important elections in Thuringia this year: New district administrators, mayors, mayors and city and community councilors will be elected on May 26th. The state elections are coming up on September 1st. The country is currently led by a red-red-green minority government under left-wing Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow. According to current surveys, there would be no stable majority this time either.

Since the arson attack on the house of SPD politician Michael Müller in Schnepfenthal (Gotha district) two weeks ago, Thuringia’s Interior Minister Georg Maier (SPD) has been warning of a new level of escalation. Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Stephan Kramer, spoke of an aggressive political mood that gave rise to fears of further attacks and attacks.

According to Ramelow, the Free State’s security authorities have been put on heightened alert. The CDU now wants to make the series of attacks an issue in the state parliament’s interior committee.

There have been more and more attacks for years

According to crime statistics, the number of crimes against politicians and attacks against party offices has been rising for years. The perpetrators are rarely caught. Furthermore, only cases that are actually displayed end up in the statistics. A 2021 study found that this happens in just 15 percent of incidents of hate, hate speech and violence against public officials.

Nationwide, the Greens in particular have become targets. In Thuringia, the party is fighting to get back into parliament in the upcoming state elections. Your state spokesman Max Reschke has observed that protests and sentiment have been running high since Christmas. In addition to damage to property such as broken windows or blown-up mailboxes, the Greens would also have to endure significantly more insults and insults.

No Green Party member should therefore campaign on the streets alone. There is also additional training to de-escalate in difficult situations.

“Despite attacks, we don’t fall into a state of shock, because we need to talk to each other, especially now,” says Reschke. We will continue to approach people and hold information stands or citizen dialogues.

AfD is also the target of attacks

Statistically speaking, in addition to the Greens and the Left, the AfD and its state leader Björn Höcke, which is classified as right-wing extremist in the state, is often the target of attacks. A few days ago, an unknown substance was sent to an AfD constituency office in Nordhausen. An employee had to be taken to hospital as a precaution.

In the Saale-Holzland district, the AfD’s independent district administrator candidate, Matthias Beerbaum, withdrew his candidacy after just a few days because his family had been threatened. This should not happen in a democracy, he wrote in a statement. He left a question about his candidacy and withdrawal unanswered.

Researcher: Violence from the right has a different quality

Andreas Beelmann, psychologist at the Center for Right-Wing Extremism Research in Jena, sees clear differences between the right and the left when it comes to crimes. A similar increase in numbers is being observed on both sides. But insults, attacks on officials and hatred on the Internet from the right are “a completely different number in terms of both quality and quantity than what we experience from the left,” says Beelmann.

A clear political strategy can be seen behind the attacks, especially at the highest political level. Groups observed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution calculated to break taboos only to then row back again. “It’s all well planned,” says Beelmann.

At the local level, it is often observed that volunteer politicians withdraw because the price is too high for them. The attackers felt strengthened by this.

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