German vice chancellor’s party wants far-right PEGIDA put on spy watch

© Hannibal Hanschke
The German Social Democrats have proposed the country’s domestic intelligence agency monitor two of the country’s most vocal far-right organizations – the AfD party and PEGIDA, saying the “brown demagogues” play on popular fears and stir up hate.

The Social Democratic Party led by Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Alternative for Germany (AfD) or PEGIDA have to be monitored by the national domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

In a memo cited by Spiegel, the SPD warns of “dangerous extreme right trends within the AfD party and groups such as PEGIDA.”

PEGIDA and AfD – whose popularity has skyrocketed during the refugee crisis in Germany – were referred to by the Social Democrats as “brown demagogues who play on people’s troubles and fears, and stir up hate.”

In 2015, the German Interior Ministry registered 1.1 million asylum seekers, attracted by generous welfare benefits and the government’s “open door” policy. Syrians fleeing war and misery make up the largest group of refugees, while Afghans are second.

The so-called “welcome culture” is polarizing the Germans, with significant sections of society protesting, sometimes in violent and extreme ways.

“Incidents against refugees, refugee hostels, and men and women helping them by far-right offenders have been taking place on a worrying scale,” the Social Democrats’ paper said.

At least 817 attacks on refugee shelters have been carried out since the beginning of 2015, according to Germany’s Criminal Police Office statistics. In 2014, there were just 199 cases.

The crimes include arson, property damage and hate graffiti. More than 750 of the 817 attacks were carried out by right-wing extremists, while in 2014 they were responsible for 177 of the 199.

READ MORE: Locals voice fears, minister vows punishment after 'Arab' crowd blamed for sex assaults in Cologne

However, New Year’s Day in Germany was marked by sexual violence and abuse committed by suspects of alleged “Arab or North African descent.”

In Cologne, at least 80 people fell victim to these suspected gangs, with 35 suffering sexual assaults. “Heavily intoxicated men” flooded the city’s famous square between its central train station and the cathedral, according to witness accounts.