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Parties: Dispute over AfD party conference in Essen: Partial victory for the party

Parties: Dispute over AfD party conference in Essen: Partial victory for the party
Parties: Dispute over AfD party conference in Essen: Partial victory for the party

600 AfD delegates want to meet for the federal party conference in Essen. But the trade fair has terminated the rental agreement. Was that legal? In the first step, the party won its case in court.

At the end of June, the AfD plans to elect a new executive board at a federal party conference with 600 delegates in the Grugahalle in Essen. But the city’s trade fair subsidiary has terminated the rental agreement. The AfD has appealed against this in the regional court and in parallel in the administrative court – and won the first step: the administrative court ruled that the city of Essen must make the Grugahalle available to the AfD.

However, there is still a second case to come before the regional court, which will be discussed in oral proceedings this Monday.

On what grounds did the municipal trade fair company terminate the rental agreement?

The rental contract with the AfD for the Grugahalle is almost one and a half years old. From the city’s point of view, however, the party has become significantly more radical since the contract was signed. The city points to the fact that AfD parliamentary group leader Björn Höcke was sentenced to a fine in Thuringia for using the banned SA slogan “Everything for Germany”. In order to prevent such statements at the party conference, the city council demanded that the AfD make a voluntary commitment. The party refused. The contract was then terminated.

What was the complaint before the administrative court about?

Here, the AfD as a party and the Essen AfD council group have attacked the Essen council resolution and the resulting termination of the contract in two extensive motions. An advance assurance to prevent criminal slogans cannot be implemented in practice with several hundred delegates plus guests, says AfD Vice President Peter Boehringer. In addition, the discussion of the city council resolution was put on the city council’s agenda at short notice, in violation of the notice periods. The resolution is therefore void for formal reasons.

The court did not accept the AfD faction’s application and the formal criticism. However, it does not see sufficient basis for the likelihood of violations of law. Therefore, the city or its trade fair subsidiary must release the hall – a clear interim victory for the party. It was still unclear this morning whether the city would lodge an appeal against this. In addition, civil proceedings will follow at the regional court.

How does the AfD argue at the regional court?

The focus of the discussion at the regional court is a specific clause in the contract. According to this, termination is possible if “there are facts that give rise to fears that (the) event will disrupt public safety or order.” But is that the case here? The AfD wants to prove the opposite at the oral hearing at the regional court. The AfD considers the termination of the contract to be unlawful and insists on compliance with its rental agreement. It also considers the formula to be far too vague and unspecific to justify termination.

How good are the AfD’s chances?

Even before the first decision on Friday, the so-called obligation to contract spoke in favor of the AfD’s position: If other parties were allowed to use the hall – which was the case at a CDU federal party conference in 2016, for example – a municipal owner may not then simply refuse to use it for a single party.

Following the administrative court’s decision, the AfD’s position may have improved for the civil proceedings – even if both courts act independently of each other. The Gelsenkirchen court assumes that there is no sufficient basis for a high probability of the expression of punishable Nazi slogans.

The AfD is convinced that the party conference will take place as planned. If it loses in one of the two courts, it will appeal to the next higher authority, the party said before Friday. There is “no plan B” for a different location.

How are AfD opponents preparing for the party conference weekend?

Regardless of the legal tug-of-war, a broad alliance of the city, churches, unions, companies and initiatives is organizing the protest against the AfD party conference. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected. It could be the largest rally that Essen has seen in many years. The main event is planned in a trade fair car park directly next to the Grugahalle, where the AfD wants to hold its party conference. Buses will bring demonstrators from all over Germany to Essen. There will be tent facilities on the Ruhr for up to 6,000 out-of-town demonstrators. Music and cabaret events are also planned as part of the anti-AfD protests.

Where is there potential for conflict with the police?

The security forces will be in full operation throughout the weekend. There are calls for “civil disobedience” in the left-wing scene. Among other things, activists want to use blockades to prevent the AfD delegates from even coming to the party conference in the Grugahalle. The police announced that they are prepared for such forms of protest. The forces must ensure that both the party conference and the registered counter-events can take place, a police spokesperson emphasized. In terms of personnel, this is a major effort for the police in NRW – especially since the round of 16 matches of the European Football Championship are taking place in Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen and Cologne at the same time as the party conference.

Source: Stern

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