The German secret service is closely monitoring a group of coronavirus deniers who have found a common cause among right-wing extremists in their protests against restrictions and the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories.
Government officials said the movement’s close ties to extremist organizations such as the “Reichsbürgern” – or “Reichsbürger” as they are called in German, referring to a group that refuses to accept the legitimacy of the modern German state – are worrying. Many of the coronavirus deniers say they also believe in QAnon conspiracy theories, and protesters are often seen holding signs depicting anti-Semitic tropics. Several journalists were attacked while reporting on the demonstrations.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said in a statement: “Our basic democratic order as well as state institutions such as parliaments and governments have been exposed to several attacks since the beginning of the measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.” Several regional intelligence agencies have already observed participants in the movement, he added.
The group of deniers, which began as a fringe movement last spring, has grown into a coordinated effort organizing mass demonstrations across Germany. The rallies occasionally get aggressive and many have argued with law enforcement officers.
Members of the group, who thinks outside the box in German, coordinate via Facebook, Telegram and YouTube. Sections of the AfD, a German right-wing populist party, have allied themselves with demonstrators. Formal observation of the denier group by the national secret service is the first step in a process that could result in its being declared unconstitutional and ultimately banned.
A week ago around 8,000 people protested in Berlin against the passing of a law that gives the federal government the power to implement stricter restrictions. Germany has had a sustained high average number of new daily cases recently, averaging 18,000 per day, according to a New York Times database, up from about 8,000 per day two months ago.