Berlin (dpa) – The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution observes people and groups within the lateral thinker movement. The Federal Ministry of the Interior announced this in Berlin on Wednesday. This means that the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution can now, for example, collect data on certain people from all over the country.
All in all, the authority fears that the conspiracy theories that spread in the course of protests against the corona measures will not completely disappear even after the end of the pandemic.
The Cologne authorities have been thinking about this decision for months, also because the spectrum of protesters is very heterogeneous. This includes esotericists, so-called Reichsburgers, opponents of vaccinations, and supporters of different worldviews. At the end of 2020, the president of the federal office, Thomas Haldenwang said: “I hope that this movement with its conspiracy theories will fade into the background after the end of the corona pandemic. Similar to what we observed in the xenophobic Pegida movement, which has gradually collapsed even after the decline in the number of refugees. “
Because the movement could not be attributed to any of the previously known phenomena such as right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism or Islamism, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution created a new category, the Interior Ministry said. It is called “delegitimization of the state relevant to the protection of the constitution”. The new categorization means that both a suspicious case and a proven extremist attempt can be handled.
In a suspicious case, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees important indications of anti-constitutional efforts. This allows the federal office to systematically observe those affected under strict conditions and obtain information secretly, for example through observation or recruiting informants. However, eavesdropping on telephone calls, for example, must be approved. If the presumption is upheld before the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, it will be classified as a proven extremist movement.
Legitimate protests and demonstrations against the corona policy are being exploited repeatedly, and more recently in recent times, and escalations are said to be provoked, the ministry justified the decision. Registrants and organizers of demonstrations – notably protagonists of the lateral thought movement – “clearly show in some cases that their agendas go beyond mobilization, but also protests against the state’s corona-protective measures.”
Alliances with “Reichsburgers” and “self-governors” as well as right-wing extremists were “accepted or sought, disobedience of official orders was propagated and eventually the state monopoly on the use of force was overturned”. Overall, this is likely to shake confidence in the state institutions and their representatives in the long run.
“Reich citizens and self-administrators” question the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Germany. They often refuse to pay taxes. Security authorities recently added about 19,000 people to the scene, including about 950 right-wing extremists.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) had already said in mid-April that he expected nationwide observation of the lateral thought movement. “We have had a strong focus on this scene from the start. We look carefully at who is participating and what their behavior is, ”he explained. The problems and the willingness to use violence in this scene have increased.
First, the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Baden-Württemberg, where the lateral thinker movement originated, put the alliance under observation last December.
Participants in lateral thinkers’ protests sometimes take to the streets with symbols of popular conspiracy stories. One of these is the “QAnon” myth. Behind everything that happens in the world, his supporters feel a cabal in control – the “Deep State”. This wants to enforce a “New World Order”, a kind of world government to subdue humanity.
Individual participants in demonstrations against the Corona also took to the streets with ‘Jewish stars’, for example labeled ‘Unvaccinated’. The authorities forced Jewish citizens to wear such a symbol visibly during the Nazi era. Some supporters of the lateral thinker movement also spread claims that children died with masks or that Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is committed to developing vaccines with his foundation, was responsible for the development of the coronavirus.
The chairman of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, called the step urgent. Right-wing extremists are using the protests against the Corona demands strategically to gain supporters. They use it to spread their ideas deep into society. “This development must be halted.” And networks must be avoided that would undermine the foundations of our long-term democracy. ”
With its decision, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution also responds to critics who, for example, in dealing with Islamists and right-wing extremists, accused it of overlooking dangerous developments that go beyond the usual forms of organization – for example, right-wing extremists willing to violence that radicalized itself on the internet, but did not belong to a neo-Nazi group.