Protest against the afd: a village fights back

In the small Lower Saxon village of Schwagstorf, hundreds of people demonstrated loudly and peacefully against an AfD event.

Protest with bagpipes: Schwagstorfer take to the streets against the AfD and Beatrix von Storch Photo: Harff-Peter Schonherr

There have been many village festivals in Schwagstorf. But one like Friday’s never before: bedsheet banners with messages like "Hate is crass, love is crasser!" are stretched between trees, tied to a hedge, hung in bus shelters. Kids label the street with crayon: "Schwagstorf is colorful!"

Trays full of love pearl cakes are passed around, balloons float overhead, in the middle of it all Fabian marches up and down, between the church square and the police barricade, with his bagpipes. "It’s unacceptable that they’re holding their Reich Party Congress there!" he says.

By "them," Fabian means the AfD. In the community’s own event center, it has invited to a "citizens’ dialog"; the keynote speaker is the deputy leader of its Bundestag faction Beatrix von Storch. The AfD has mobilized just under 60 supporters. The village community 600, say the police; many of those present estimate: 1,000, if not more.

The loser of the evening, besides the AfD, is Rainer Ellermann (CDU), the mayor of the Lower Saxony municipality of Ostercappeln, to which Schwagstorf belongs. He is no friend of the AfD, and when he steps up to the microphone to explain why he has nevertheless rented out the community hall to it, he sounds powerless. Does he still believe that the demo forming in front of him would not exist without him?

Locals are there, from toddlers to pensioners. Townspeople are there, many dressed in black, many with red flags. Country and city have shown solidarity, without Ellermann.

Posters, flags and protest

Next to the church, there is a "Kein Bock auf Nazis" ("Don’t want Nazis") stand. Antifa flags are unfurled, the "bunt und solidarisch" banner of Ver.di stretches across the street, two young women hold up a double poster: "Voting for the AfD in protest because you don’t like current politics is like drinking from the toilet in the club because the beer doesn’t taste good". Everyone is there, from the sports club to the grannies against the right. The Left Party has a forest of party flags with them, the German Trade Union Federation a megaphone.

Filiz Polat, a member of the Bundestag for the Green Party, is also standing on the church square. "After all, I stand for everything the AfD wants to abolish," she says. "And I’m glad that civil society is setting itself up so broadly here, making itself so visible." Whether that gives the AfD too much attention? "People who suffer from right-wing attacks need to see that they are not alone!"

Fikret Dokumaci, the owner of the "Figos" kebab snack bar a few steps down the street, has yet to experience any attacks. He says, "I’ve always felt at home here."

Banging spoons on pots

The demo moves toward the AfD "dialogue." Rainbow flags are waved. Whistles shrill. Signal trumpets, drums, clapping caps resound. Families bang spoons on pots. The church congregation rolls a huge bell forward, lets it boom. Chants of "Nazis out!" erupt, the "Internationale" can be heard.

The farmer Henning Aumund from Schwagstorf, who co-organizes such a demo for the first time, waves a cowbell. Chris, also from here and co-organizer, says: "It’s important that protests come from citizens, not from the mayor, who has given the cause against which the protest is directed to the public much too late!"

No backzu, but new demo

The police, with three hundred units on duty, are relaxed. No "chaots" are coming. Ellermann had warned against them – and did not mean the AfD. When he asks the demonstrators to retreat, they spontaneously register a new demo and stay. From now on, it is finally a celebration of the citizens.

Only their 50-man detachment at the other end of town is unhappy: Von Storch’s car got through, despite being blocked.