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Thousands protest against far-right AfD in Berlin ahead of Bundestag debut

© Steffi Loos, AFP | A protester holds up a sign reading "Stop the AFD" during a demonstration in Berlin on October 22, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-10-23

Thousands of demonstrators marched Sunday in Berlin, in protest against the far-right Alternative for Germany's debut in parliament on Tuesday.

Bearing posters with slogans like "Stop AfD", "My voice against incitement" or "My heart beats for diversity", the demonstrators rallied two days before AfD lawmakers will join other MPs at the first sitting of Germany's newly-elected parliament.

Its 709 lawmakers include 92 from the Islamophobic and anti-migrant AfD, which won 12.6 percent of the vote in the watershed general election in September and became the country's third biggest party. It is entering the national parliament for the first time.

Its arrival in the Bundestag is a political earthquake for post-war Germany, as the AfD's top figures have repeatedly smashed taboos with their claims on German identity or by challenging Germany's culture of atonement over World War II.

But the party proved appealing to voters angry with Chancellor Angela Merkel's border policy, which allowed more than one million asylum seekers into the country since 2015.

Calling on people to join the protest on Sunday, the popular movement Campact urged Germans to "steal the show from the AfD".

"When the AfD sits in the Bundestag for the first time on October 24, it needs to know that our parliament is not a stage for racism, discrimination and falsifying history!" said Campact.

Teacher Annette Saidler acknowledged at the protest that "it's now too late" to stop the AfD from entering parliament.

"We can't do anything other than demonstrate, to say that there are still many people who did not vote for the AfD."

Another protester, 25-year-old university student Bastian Schmidt said he was at the demonstration to "call on parliamentary parties to protest in parliament against the AfD".

"But above all, the people who are here, wherever they are in their daily lives -- in schools, universities or companies -- must fight against racism," said Schmidt, who turned up with a group of like-minded schoolmates.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2017-10-23

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