During a round of talks on the subject of “hate and violence in times of the pandemic”, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the population to counter “hostile slogans”. “The majority must become politically recognizable, it must not withdraw, the citizenry must not remain silent,” said Steinmeier on Monday. The “silent center” must become more visible, more self-confident and louder. Because this also encourages, yes, protects people who are being attacked. And the number of threats is great.
Employees of public order offices, bus drivers, tram drivers or salespeople could tell how aggressive mask refusers sometimes appear, said Steinmeier. One shouldn’t downplay that. It was a mask refuser who murdered a gas station employee with a targeted shot in the head last September.
Headmasters know how threatening it becomes “when Reich citizens write letters and try to keep even the youngest from vaccinating”. And scientists know “how it feels to be inundated with brutal agitation after the latest publication in messenger services such as Telegram or on Facebook”. Journalists, firefighters, doctors and mayors would also report hostilities.
These weeks it’s often about “majority and minority,” said Steinmeier at the event in Bellevue Palace. But the numbers are clear: every single day there are “tens of times more citizens” who get vaccinated than citizens “who provocatively violate corona rules”. There they are, “the vast majority of the reasonable, the people who show responsibility for others”.
Millions of people would comply with the requirements, but unfortunately there is “everything else too”. The word walk has lost its innocence in recent months. “Hygiene rules and corona requirements are deliberately circumvented, doctor’s surgeries and vaccination buses are attacked in market places, the homes of politicians – especially local politicians – are besieged, police forces are deliberately injured.” Torch bearers and death threats would make headlines.
All of this is not just about disregarding the right of assembly or the rules of hygiene. It’s about “disregarding social peace in our country – hate and violence are destroying the foundation of our togetherness”.
Pointing the finger at the Minister of the Interior
The Federal President also referred to the importance of freedom of assembly. And his comments could also be understood as a pointer to Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD). Faeser tweeted a few days ago: “I repeat my appeal: You can express your opinion without meeting in many places at the same time.” The minister was then accused of disrespect for the freedom of assembly guaranteed in the Basic Law.
Steinmeier now said that freedom of assembly was “a great asset of our Basic Law”. Democracy needs “lively debate – it needs public space in which contradictions can be expressed”. Curtailing this good, like all restrictions on fundamental rights during the pandemic, must be well founded. The “red line” does not run “where someone uses the right of assembly for demands that displease the rulers”. The red line runs “exactly where violence comes into play”. The same applies to freedom of expression, “we need it and we protect it”. That’s why he himself not only gave a voice to advocates, but also to skeptics and opponents of vaccination at Bellevue Palace.