BERLIN (Reuters) - The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany is offering some members money to go to a rally in Berlin on Sunday where they will protest against mass migration and express their concerns about the future of Germany.
The AfD expects at least 2,500 people to attend the protest under the motto “Germany’s future” and said demonstrators would wind their way through the center of Berlin from the main train station to the Brandenburg Gate. Counter-protests are expected using slogans such as: “Stop the hate. Stop the AfD”.
Left-wing website Exif published an email in which Uwe Junge, leader of the AfD in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, offered the first 30 members in the region who come forward 50 euros to subsidise their travel to the demonstration.
Robin Classen, spokesman for the AfD in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, confirmed the contents of the email, saying the AfD there had considered chartering a bus, as other parties typically do for events or demonstrations, but decided against that because its members were spread around the state.
“It’s a round trip of 1,200 kilometers so it’s a half day of traveling so this isn’t a payment for demonstrating - it’s basically a drop in the ocean to make the journey possible or easier for people,” Classen said.
He said members would need to prove they had attended the demonstration - such as by sending in a photograph of themselves there with Junge.
At a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday, Steffen Koeniger, a lawmaker for the AfD in the eastern state of Brandenburg who is helping to organize the demonstration, said AfD members did not need to be given money to attend.
“They do it as they are dissatisfied - they even take a day off work, pay for a bus ticket, pay for a hotel room, pay accommodation just to be there,” he said.
Georg Pazderski, a member of the AfD’s executive board, told reporters on Wednesday that Germany could no longer afford mass migration, needed to close its borders and be more rigorous in deporting people.
“We need to finally end the shameless exploitation of our social state,” he said, adding that he was also concerned about other issues such as pensions, security on the streets and organized crime.
More than 1.6 million migrants, many from the Middle East, have arrived in Germany since 2014, becoming a hot political issue which helped the AfD enter the national parliament for the first time in last year’s election.
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Alexandra Hudson