In the end, more right-wing extremists came than expected: up to 2,243 travelled to a rock festival in Themar in south Thüringen. According to police, the visitors had right-wing or extreme-right political views and had travelled not only from across Germany but also from countries like France, Italy, Croatia, Norway, and Russia.
The event took place on Friday and Saturday. Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution expected up to 1,500 visitors. Last year’s version of the festival - perhaps the biggest neo-Nazi gathering of the year - was also in Themar.
Protests against the festival, police said, drew about 300 people to the streets of Themar. The demonstrators carried wooden crosses in order to commemorate victims of right-wing violence in Germany since 1990. The protests were “free of trouble”, though a police complaint was filed against one demonstrator for reasons still unclear.
The police registered 84 complaints against visitors to the festival, mostly for displaying symbols of constitutionally banned organisations. Germany prohibits the display of Nazi symbols such as the swastika. On Friday, the police reported that some festival-goers had given the Hitler salute. The police were also pursuing drug crimes.
There were two complaints filed for hate speech. And on the concert’s first day, a 33-year-old man, presumed to be right-wing, allegedly punched a 27 year-old journalist in the face. The investigation is in progress.
In order to secure the event, hundreds of police officers from Thuringia and other German states joined together. They took a tougher approach to illegal activity after last year’s softer tactics were heavily criticized. At the 2017 festival in Themar, numerous neo-Nazis gave the Hitler salute, but in many cases the police did not step in or failed to record the incident with their own camera team.