With the AfD surging ahead at the polls towards becoming the strongest party in Saxony, it comes as no surprise that AndrĂ© Poggenburg and his party, the “Aufbruch deutscher Patrioten – Mitteldeutschland” (AdPM), wanted to try their luck and march in Leipzig, again. But there is one detail Poggenburg – a man described as being “too extreme” even for the AfD – seems to have either forgotten or wilfully ignored: Leipzig is a red and green island in the Saxonian sea of blue, and the people here are very proud of it.
Getting to the demo on Wednesday was a wild goose chase for a while.
Originally the AdPM rally was due to start at 18:00 on BrandstraĂźe in Connewitz, with the counter-demo planned for 16:00. The aim was to occupy the space where AdPM and their supporters wanted to hold their rally, thus blocking them from holding it altogether.
In typical Connewitz style though, people didnâ€™t want to wait that long, and during the morning reportedly started using bins to create street blockades, and scattering trash in the streets. LVZ reported that residents in the area were asked to put bulky waste outside in order to have materials for the barricade, and that graffiti reading “Fuck Nazis” appeared near where the rally was due to start. (Although it has to be said, on almost every street in Connewitz there is some sort of Antifa graffiti.)
Das Ordnungsamt hat die fĂĽr heute geplante Versammlung der Partei â€žAufbruch deutscher Patrioten Mitteldeutschlandâ€ś unter BerĂĽcksichtigung der aktualisierten Gefahrenprognose auf eine stationĂ¤re Kundgebung auf dem nĂ¶rdlichen Simsonplatz beschrĂ¤nkt. #le1707 https://t.co/mp7719DcRG
â€” Stadt Leipzig (@StadtLeipzig) July 17, 2019
Nevertheless, when I arrived at 16:00, the streets were already cleared and all that was left were a bunch of bored-looking police officers and some confused counter-demonstrators wondering where to go next.Â In what some people considered to be a smart move by the Leipzig Ordnungsamt and local police, the AdPM rally had been moved from Connewitz, making it the fourth time it had been relocated – to Simsonplatz in the city centre.
The Ordnungsamt cited concerns over an “updated threat of danger.” Apparently irritated by this, Poggenburg posted on Twitter: “As almost expected, the rule of law has collapsed.” In a subsequent tweet, he blamed the relocation on “left-wing violence and aggression.”
Wie fast zu erwarten knickt der Rechtsstaat ein!
Aufgrund massiver linker Eskalation sieht sich die Stadt Leipzig nun doch auĂźerstande, eine sichere Demo in Connewitz zu ermĂ¶glichen. In Absprache mit der Stadt folgen wir noch einmal der Verlegung auf den Simsonplatz 18 Uhr! đź‡©đź‡Ş
â€” AndrĂ© Poggenburg (@PoggenburgAndre) July 17, 2019
However, many people in Connewitz and throughout Leipzig see the AdPM’s continued attempts to march in the area as a clear provocation of the left-wing and anti-fascist groups, which call the area home and are what the area is famous for. Some see it as a blatant attempt to stir up the hornet’s nest, while others see it as a kind of childish territory-marking. Either way, as it was made clear yesterday, Poggenburg and his supporters will not be let into Connewitz that easily.
At Simsonplatz, there was a huge police presence, with over 20 vans parked up along the street and barriers dividing the square.
In the middle was the space for the AdPM static rally and on either side, with about a 50-meter gap in between, was the space for the counter-demo. By 17:00 there were already demonstrators gathering on both the north and south sides.
The mood was calm and people were mostly standing around and chilling. It felt more like waiting for a concert to start than being at a demo, only there was no stage set up and there was no sign of Poggenburg yet. Some people were questioning whether he would actually show up or not.
Shortly after 18:00, three cars rolled into the space allocated for the AdPM rally. The other two sides were fully packed with hundreds of counter-demonstrators and, as MDR reported, when Poggenburg stepped out of his car the “whistle concert” began. It was a raucous affair, as any good demonstration should be.
Once the AdPM had set their loudspeakers and banners up, their speeches started. The counter-demo crowd on both sides was so loud, it was almost impossible to make out a single word of what anyone in the middle was saying. Amongst the whistles and the horns were shouts of “Nazis out,” “there is no right for Nazi propaganda,” and some casual reminders to the Nazis that “you lost the war.” At one point, I heard someone playing “The Entertainer” on the trumpet, perhaps a member of the small brass band that was performing in the crowd.
There was no shortage of people flipping the bird either, to further show Poggenburg and his supporters that they’re not welcome in Leipzig – as if being outnumbered from around 30 AdPM supporters to, I’d guess, over 500 counter-demonstrators, wasn’t enough of an indication already.
Despite the continuous shouting, loud noise and not-so-welcoming hand gestures, the whole demonstration passed peacefully. The police reported no major incidents, and the most I saw them doing was taking a few empty glass bottles off people at the front of the barriers, with others voluntarily handing their bottles over.
By 19:30 people were already leaving, and shortly after 20:00, Poggenburg and his supporters left too. There was a brief moment where it looked like something could flare up, with one man running and shouting to the crowd that “the Nazis are leaving,” and beaconing people over to the car park exit on BeethovenstraĂźe, in an apparent attempt to cause a road block. However, he was largely ignored.
The AdPM supporters were still given a fair send off, with sarcastic “goodbyes” and people telling them not to bother coming back again. Unfortunately though, it seems like AndrĂ© Poggenburg wasnâ€™t listening, as he’s already, somewhat brazenly, announced he wants to try again to march in Connewitz on 14 August.
AndrĂ© Poggenburg’s selective hearing aside, Leipzig sent a loud and clear message to him and his AdPM supporters: Nazis are not welcome here!
The demonstration was a refreshing relief from the anarchy that would have probably ensued in Connewitz, and from the violence and chaos of the HildegardstraĂźe demo last Tuesday. The crowds and the police remained calm throughout, the spirits were high and there was a complete cross section of the population there. Punks and Antifa members, a wide selection of age ranges young and old, political activists from Die Linke and Die Partei, families, and, my personal favourite, two ladies holding placards saying “Grandmas against the right.”
By 20:30 almost everyone had left and the police had started putting away the barriers.
If Poggenburg does indeed try to return to Leipzig again next month, my hope is that he is met with the same sort of welcome that he received yesterday.
By George O’Connor
George O’Connor is a British freelance photographer and musician based in Leipzig. He regularly shoots and documents the many demonstrations and events in and around Leipzig, and hosts a weekly electronic music radio show every Friday. Website | Facebook | Instagram