Dec. 3 (UPI) — Thousands of protesters gathered in Germany as the far-right Alternative for Germany party held a conference to elect leadership.
After 7 hours of deliberations delayed by protests outside the conference in Hanover on Saturday, the AfD voted to elect Alexander Gauland as co-leader in addition to re-electing current co-chair Jorg Meuthen.
“There are people in this country who say ‘we can do it,’ and those who actually get something done,” Meuthen, said in reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrat party who have yet to form a government.
Protesters stood in freezing weather as they attempted to block the conference from happening while police used water cannons, batons and pepper spray to make way for the 600 AfD delegates.
Several protesters were injured and 10 were taken into custody.
While the AfD branded itself “more mature, more adult, smarter” and elected officials it saw as “ready to govern” in time for Germany’s 2021 federal elections, protesters held signs criticizing the party’s nationalist and anti-Muslim policy proposals such as the immediate repatriation of Syrian migrants.
“No one gets to dictate from on high what it means to be German,” Paula Rahaus a spokeswoman for Greens, one of the group’s behind the Saturday protest said. “We want to stop them from spreading their antisocial politics.”
After winning 12.6 percent of the vote in Germany’s September federal elections, the AfD holds 94 seats on the country’s 709-seat Parliament.
If the Christian Democrats reach a coalition deal with Martin Schulz‘s social democrats the AfD would become Germany’s largest non-government party.