In a scene that is all too familiar to senior UKIP officials, German politician Frauke Petry, one of the joint-leading spokespeople for the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD), was attacked by masked opponents while dining in a restaurant in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, on Wednesday evening. The Local reports that in a seemingly innocuous approach a young woman walked up to the table Petry and her fellow diner were sitting at to ask“are you Frauke Petry?” She confirmed her identity. The woman then insulted the politician before running out of the restaurant.
Shortly after three masked individuals burst in and overturned Petry’s table. Throwing bags filled with fruit juice at the politician the assailants shouted “Nazis out” before running away.
Commenting after the event Petry labeled the incident a “brutal attempt to limit freedom of speech” describing it as “rotten.” She also warned that violence from the far-left is not treated seriously enough by mainstream parties.
The incident is not an isolated one. Two years ago in the same town activists from Antifa – a left-wing anti-fascist movement – poured petrol over a local AfD committee member’s house and other party members have spoken of receiving threatening phone calls. In addition in April police had to intervene when football fans hurled political abuse at another AfD leader, Bernd Lucke, as he accompanied his wife on a train journey from Berlin to Cologne.
The parallels with eurosceptic politics in Britain are striking. The trajectory of AfD is similar to that of UKIP. Founded in 2013 and initially backed by prominent economists, journalists and business leaders AfD grew in popularity and support, moving beyond its academic roots into a popular movement that has won representation both in the European Parliament (where it sits in the same group as the British Conservative Party) and several German state parliaments. At the same time there has been an ideological struggle for direction within the top ranks of the party with senior party figures from East Germany looking to widen the focus from being a protest against the Euro to being a broader populist party.
AfD’s violent treatment at the hands of opponents is similar to that meted out to UKIP. Two years ago Nigel Farage required police protection when a mob of protestors he described as “yobbo, fascist scum” targeted him during a visit to Edinburgh. More recently Farage was harassed by a gang of protestors while dining privately with his family in a pub in Kent and UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, required a police escort to get him away from a threatening crowd in scenes witnessed by Breitbart London.
In addition, accusations of racism levelled at the party are identical to those thrown at UKIP. One AfD spokesman told The Local: “Among the public there is this false perception that we are a party that hates foreigners, it is is created by a hostile media who attack us because we are new. But many people simply want to believe in this perception.” He said that media seizes upon “black sheep” in the party to create a negative image, even though “the CDU has more of these kinds of people in its ranks then we do.”