Stuttgart / Berlin (dpa) – Stuttgart is at the heart of the “lateral thinkers” movement, which is campaigning against government corona measures. A nationally active protest movement has now emerged from this.
Intelligence officials have been monitoring the group closely for months. Because right-wing extremists and so-called Reichsburgers mixed with the protesters. At least since the call to “storm the Reichstag” and the occupation of the steps in front of parliament, politicians have been extremely alarmed.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Baden-Württemberg is now the first state office to decide to observe “lateral thinking”. “Out-of-the-box thinking is directed against the basic liberal order,” said Home Secretary Thomas Strobl (CDU). That is not a guess, but a fact. Central actors create “subversive impulses”. More and more statements were made that put the Nazi era into perspective and downplayed the Holocaust.
What are the consequences?
Anyone who is one of the main players in the group should now, at least in Baden-Württemberg, expect to be spied on with the help of intelligence services. This includes, for example, observing and deploying so-called V-people. These are informers from a particular scene that the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution considers reliable and who provide information to the internal intelligence service. Beate Bube, head of constitutional protection in the Southwest, says they will now play the entire “keyboard”.
Is “lateral thinking” now prohibited?
No. First of all, the sighting only concerns Baden-Württemberg and there too the group can continue to distribute messages and organize meetings on the Internet. If individual meetings were to be banned or disbanded by the appropriate local authorities with reference to the applicable Corona contact restrictions, this has nothing to do with observation by the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
Are all “lateral thinking” demonstrators now being observed?
No. Minister Strobl assures that there will not be a massive sighting of protests. There is no “general suspicion”. A group of people “in the low double digit range” should be monitored. These are central actors, some of whom belong to the group of “Reichsburgers” who do not recognize the Federal Republic.
Are all anti-corona protesters still considered right-wing radicals?
No. Police and the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution have determined that the demonstrations are also accompanied by esotericists, anti-vaccination campaigners and other people not part of the right-wing spectrum. Also, not everyone who follows the call for ‘lateral thinking’ combine their criticism of the state’s measures to contain the corona pandemic with a rejection of the political system. Minister Strobl said, “Not everyone who demonstrates is an enemy of the constitution.” Criticism of state corona resolutions is still allowed, of course. At the same time, people had to keep an eye on who they were marching with.
Can “lateral thinking 711” defend itself against perception?
In principle, anyone who is observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution can sue. The movement’s founder, the Stuttgart entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, finds the earlier justification for the observation unsound. It is mainly based on rumors. It’s just another attempt to “intimidate peaceful protesters”. For a possible judicial clarification, he wants to wait and see what the “actual evidence of an extremist movement” looks like.
Will other states and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution follow suit?
It is quite possible that other federal states, in which the group has a large number of extremist circles, will follow the example of Baden-Württemberg. North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg and possibly also Thuringia would be at stake. However, it is not very likely that all countries will follow, because the “lateral thinkers” are not equally active everywhere. Nor do they form a tightly managed, nationally homogeneous group. A prerequisite for an observation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution would be that the extremist influence is shaping the movement as a whole.
How does the federal agency rate the “lateral thinkers”?
The Cologne authority notes that events organized by “lateral thinking” also include extremists, Reichsburgers, so-called self-governors and “other people with an anti-constitutional attitude”. “They are the trigger for the constitutional protection authorities of the federal and state governments to carry out their legal mandate also in relation to events of the so-called lateral thinker movement,” the federal office continues. Demonstrations with a large number of participants show that right-wing extremist groups or parties are also mobilizing for this. Attacks on police officers and media representatives indicated “an increase in the willingness to use force”.
What’s next now?
The federal and state ministers of the interior wanted to spend the next two days at their fall conference to discuss extremist influence in the environment of corona skeptics. However, more than one decision to continue to investigate this further is unlikely. “The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution must decide whether national observation of the movement is appropriate on the basis of objective, non-political criteria,” stressed domestic political spokesman for the Union parliamentary group Mathias Middelberg. Bube fears that conspiracy theorists will gain even more popularity in the course of the vaccinations against Corona. “The topic of vaccination will continue to fuel the movement.”