A no-fly zone is being enforced for four days over the German city of Cologne 1in a huge security crackdown for an anti-immigration party s conference. Thousands of police officers armed with tear gas and water cannons are being deployed for Alternative f r Deutschland s (AfD2) meeting, where up to 50,000 protesters are expected to greet delegates. As well as the risk of violent clashes between party supporters, demonstrators and police, a right-wing group claiming responsibility for the Dortmund bus attack threatened the gathering3.
In one of three claims for the bombing targeting the Borussia Dortmund football team, an anonymous email sent to a German newspaper said the attack was the last warning before coloured blood will flow on 22 April. The message, which included references to Adolf Hitler and railed against multiculturalism, was believed to be a threat against left-wing demonstrations on Saturday against the AfD s perceived racism, xenophobia and neo-Nazi links. Supporters of the anti-Islam Pegida group and anti-fascist protesters have repeatedly clashed,4 while there have been more than a thousand attacks on refugee accommodation as hate crimes rise.
A government report warned of rising political violence 5from both the left and right wing since the start of the refugee crisis. Police use a water cannon during a protest march by supporters of anti-immigration right-wing movement Pegida in Cologne on 9 January 2016 (Reuters)
The German interior ministry said 39,000 recorded incidents in 2015 represented a new high since political crimes started being recorded separately in 2001, which it attributed mainly to a 44 per cent increase in violent crime by right-wing extremists. But the number of violent crimes committed by the left wing were even higher, rising 35 per cent to 2,246 incidents, largely directed against the police.
Officers are implementing heavy security measures over the weekend, bringing in a four-day no-fly zone over central Cologne on Thursday. North Rhine-Westphalia Police said the ban included aircraft including commercial flights, drones and models, and would be enforced by air traffic control. Exceptions will be made for German military and police aircraft, as well as the emergency services in the city, where tensions have run high at protests since mass sexual assaults on New Year s Eve 20156.
The ban will run throughout the AfD convention, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday as the party pushes to turn around sliding polls 7ahead of September s federal elections. Opinion polls show the AfD winning enough votes to enter the Bundestag for the first time, after it enjoyed unprecedented success in local elections8 on a heavily anti-immigration and Eurosceptic campaign. A dramatic decline in the number of refugees arriving in Germany has coincided with waning support, while the party has also been hit by infighting and controversies over members attitude to the Nazis.
A fresh blow was dealt on Wednesday, when the AfD s co-leader Frauke Petry said she would not lead its election campaign despite being considered a serious threat to Angela Merkel s party. Ms Petry, the international face of the party, had caused controversy among members by tabling a motion for its conference saying the AfD should be open to join future coalitions. Shunned by the German mainstream left-wing and conservative blocks, other AfD members want to be a fundamental opposition party.
Ms Petry, who is pregnant with her fifth child, denied suggestions that she had made the proposal with a view to becoming the party s top candidate.
Frauke Petry has a reputation for appearing entirely reasonable while supporting the xenophobic far right (AFP/Getty)
In order to put an end to all speculation in this regard, I am using the opportunity of this video message to clearly state that I am neither available for a lone lead candidacy nor for participation in a top team, the 41-year-old said in a video posted on Facebook. Ms Petry said she had decided not to run as it was important for the AfD to discuss issues such as her proposal on the party s future strategy which the majority of regional AfD branches oppose without being hindered by personnel questions. Analysts expect her party to struggle to find a replacement matching her public profile within the crucial coming months, and say it could be damaged by the appearance of a far-right candidate.
Ms Petry s camp wants to expel a senior party member, Bj rn H cke, for calling Berlin s Holocaust memorial a monument of shame 9and saying Germany should take a more positive attitude to its Nazi past. She managed to secure a two-thirds majority on the party executive board in favour of expelling him but the AfD s far-right wing supports Mr H cke and a party arbitration board must now decide his fate. Originally an anti-EU party, the AfD has been bolstered by attacking Ms Merkel s decision to open Germany s borders to Syrian refugees in 2015, which saw more than a million asylum seekers arrive in the country.
But opinion polls appear to show voters tiring of the message, with a Forsa survey showing the AfD winning just eight per cent of votes, leaving Ms Merkel s conservatives as the largest party block.
- ^ Cologne (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ AfD (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ threatened the gathering (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ Pegida group and anti-fascist protesters have repeatedly clashed, (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ warned of rising political violence (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ mass sexual assaults on New Year s Eve 2015 (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ pushes to turn around sliding polls (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ enjoyed unprecedented success in local elections (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ calling Berlin s Holocaust memorial a monument of shame (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ Reuse content (www.independent.co.uk)
Few things give Washington pundits1 more pleasure than monitoring the varying fortunes of White House officials – especially when those officials are somewhat controversial. So there was no some furore when it was revealed Steve 2Bannon3, the far right adviser to Mr Trump, had been removed from his position on the National Security Council . It has now been reported the former Breibart publisher threatened to quit the administration as he fought to retain the role. The New York Times said Mr Bannon s allies denied he threatened to leave, and sought instead to portray the move as a natural evolution as the government settled in.
Susan Rice operationalised the NSC . during the last administration, Mr Bannon said in a statement, mentioning Barack Obama s national security adviser.
I was put on the NSC with General Michael Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalised .
General McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function. Yet within Washington, the decision to remove Mr Bannon from the NSC s principals committee – a move that was said have been orchestrated by Lt Gen HR McMaster, Mr Trump s national security advisor – was seen as possible indication that the far right former navy officer s fortunes may be waning. Steve Bannon being talked about will be his kiss of death
For the first weeks of the administration, Mr Bannon s hand appeared to be present at every decision of any importance . He encouraged Mr Trump to attack the media, and revelled in personally denouncing reporters as the opposition . He pushed Mr Trump to retain the chaotic management style that had marked the election campaign.
Yet it is possible that Mr Bannon s influence may be diminishing, as Mr Trump turns increasingly to those he believes he can trust the most – family members such as Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. His eldest daughter has taken a position as federal employee within the White House, as has Mr Kushner, the former real estate magnate who appears to have been given responsibility for everything from relations with China to bringing peace to the Middle East . This week, there was much scorn as Mr Kushner was photographed during a visit to Iraq to meet with US and Iraqi military officials.
The newspaper said Mr Bannon s enemies, inside and outside the White House, celebrated what they saw as a defeat for a man who has been seen as the power behind the presidency.
He didn t belong on the principals committee to begin with – doesn t really belong in the White House at all, said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California .
I hope that this is a sign that McMaster is taking control of the National Security Council.
Others speculated that Mr Trump may have acted partly out of annoyance over reports that suggested that Mr Bannon, and not he, was the person actually running the country.
Donald Trump s controversial, right-wing advisor Steve Bannon has reportedly been stripped of his position within the National Security Council in a shake-up ordered by the president. Washington observers were startled after Mr Trump took office, when Mr Bannon, a person with minimal foreign policy experience, was given a senior role on the council . He was even made a member of the council s so-called principals committee, in preference for military officials who usually take up such roles. But Bloomberg News said that in a shake-up, Mr Trump had removed his political confidant from the NSC, a body that advises the president on matters relating to national security . It said, he had also downgraded the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert.
It said that National Security Advisor, HR McMaster, has been given responsibility for setting the agenda for meetings of the NSC or the Homeland Security Council. He has also been authorised to delegate that authority to Mr Bossert, at his discretion. Steve Bannon being talked about will be his kiss of death
Bloomberg said according to a regulatory filing, under the move, national intelligence director, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, will again become regular attendees at the principals committee.
Mr Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was elevated to the National Security Council s principals committee at the beginning of Mr Trump s presidency .
The move drew widespread criticism from Washington s foreign policy establishment.