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Thuringia’s Interior Minister Maier: “The potential for violence fills me with concern”

Thuringia’s Interior Minister Maier: “The potential for violence fills me with concern”

Hostility and insults: Unfortunately, everyday life in the election campaign, says Thuringia’s Interior Minister Georg Maier. The fact that a politician was beaten to the point of hospitalization marks a new dimension to the attacks. How could it come to this?

Mr. Maier, you are the Minister of the Interior Thuringia and SPD state chief. Have you ever been hostile or attacked during the election campaign?

Verbally hostile, yes, but not attacked yet. Unfortunately, this is everyday life.

What do you mean exactly?

It happens that I am suddenly spoken to and insulted on the street. For example, I want Mr. Höcke (dem AfD– State chairman in Thuringia, note d. Red.) deprive human rights. Such things. Of course, you don’t get approval everywhere, of course. But being spoken to so actively, with basic aggression, is new.

The SPD-European politician Matthias Ecke was . Have the attacks reached a new dimension?

Yes, we also notice that in Thuringia. I just remember the arson attack on the constituency office of the SPD local politician Michael Müller in February – it was only by chance that nothing worse happened. Windows from the constituency offices are also thrown in regularly. The cases are increasing. In the past year, the numbers of politically motivated crime have increased significantly.

It’s sad that this has to be said

What do you expect for this year?

That it will probably continue like this. However, a certain change can be observed in which parties are particularly affected. In the past, the AfD has also often been the target of attacks. This number is now decreasing, while cases among democratic parties – especially the Greens and SPD – are increasing sharply.

Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser calls for more police presence for election campaigners. You too?

We have to examine where we can further intensify the work of the security authorities and protective measures. Where are there voting booths, where are events – and how can they be protected? In Thuringia, after the aforementioned arson attack, we increased the state security staff at the State Criminal Police Office and are now offering those affected unbureaucratic advice and protection. This means we can also offer 24/7 police protection if necessary.

What can be improved in the short term to expand protection for elected officials and volunteers?

In the short term, we can mobilize more personnel to better secure public campaign events and gatherings. But what we cannot afford is for every single campaigner to be accompanied by police officers when hanging up posters. That does not work. We can therefore only appeal not to go out and post posters alone or in the evenings and to behave carefully. It’s sad that this has to be said.

Are the times when election campaigners could safely post posters and stand at information stands over – or did these times actually never exist?

Posters being torn down, defaced or damaged: This has happened before. I know that as well. During the last election campaign I had swastikas and all sorts of things on my posters…

… now there are insults, threats and harassment. How do you explain this brutalization?
This is due to the rise of populist parties, particularly the AfD, of course, but also other right-wing extremist parties.

Did the AfD’s rhetoric contribute to this development?

Naturally. The AfD fuels the basic aggression of these people. The business model of populists, including the AfD, is the targeted contempt for the alleged “system” and the “old parties” who are to blame for everything. This conspiracy narrative has experienced an enormous upswing during the corona pandemic. We have now reached a critical point because individuals feel called upon to hold the “culprits” accountable – and to take action.

I don’t see us there yet. But I see us getting there

The police suspect that one of the perpetrators has a right-wing extremist background. There is talk of Weimar conditions; some are reminded of the darkest hours of German history. How threatened is our democracy?

I don’t agree 100% with the Weimar comparison. Back then there were military formations and real battles. I don’t see us there yet. But I see us getting there.

Why?

The growing potential for violence fills me with concern, as does the brutalization of the discourse. There used to be a broad consensus that violence had no place in political discussions – but this consensus seems to be steadily disappearing among certain people. We must take decisive action against this – all of us.

What do you mean?

The security organs, whether the police or the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, cannot protect our democracy alone. This is a task for society as a whole. That’s why it’s important that a large and broad majority currently makes it so clear that they do not accept this behavior.

What advice do you have for campaigners who are now worried? How can they protect themselves?

We make a telephone switch every morning within the Thuringian SPD, we are currently in the local and European election campaign. I recommended to my comrades not to go out alone or in the evenings – that is, not to expose themselves to unnecessary risk. It’s an indictment that I have to say something like that. But unfortunately it has already come to this point.

Source: Stern

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