Far-right meeting sparks Germany protests

Police use water cannon and batons against protesters trying to block AfD delegates in Hannover.

Several people have been hurt in clashes between police and anti-fascist demonstrators in the city of Hannover.

Protesters were trying to blockade the far-right Alternative for Germany’s first conference since it entered parliament after September’s elections.

With temperatures near freezing, police used water cannon, batons and pepper spray to clear a path for the 600 delegates.

One demonstrator’s leg was broken after he chained himself to a barricade.

AfD won 12.6% of the vote in Germany’s federal elections in September, becoming the third biggest force in the Bundestag after the centre-right and social democrat SPD.

They had never entered the federal parliament before but are now eyeing a real chance of becoming Germany’s main opposition party. If Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat alliance agrees a coalition deal with Martin Schulz’s social democrats, AfD with 94 MPs would become the biggest non-government party.

Police in Hannover said an officer was hit on the hand by a flying bottle and 10 protesters were taken into custody.

A total of five demonstrations were scheduled in the northern city on Saturday. Some 6,000 people joined a pro-immigration rally in the city centre and another rally called by trade unions was expected to draw thousands later.

When the AfD conference got under way an hour late, spokesman Jörg Meuthen hailed delegates for helping the party achieve national success within five years of being founded.

He said the party was attracting support from voters put off by the other parties’ “pathetic childish games” amid an ongoing struggle to form a coalition government.

The party has veered to the right since its inception as an anti-euro force, promoting anti-immigration and anti-Islam policies in its election campaign.

But this sharp turn has created tension within its own ranks, with former co-leader Frauke Petry quitting within days of the election.

Delegates in Hannover are to choose new leaders.

Mr Meuthen, who represents the party’s far-right nativist wing, could become sole leader. But a representative of more moderate forces, Georg Pazderski, is running to become co-leader and there is speculation the leader of the party’s parliamentary group Alexander Gauland could also make a challenge for the leadership.

Delegates will also elect a new executive board to decide the ideological direction of the party and debate policy motions.

US senators pass a bill that would mark the most sweeping tax cuts since the 1980s.