BERLIN (AP) — Authorities conducted raids in 10 German states Thursday at premises linked to a group accused of pursuing a mix of anti-government and racist ideology.
Germany’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, issued a ban on the United German Peoples and Tribes, the first time a group associated with the so-called Reichsbuerger movement has been proscribed.
Reichsbuerger, or Reich citizens, have similarities to the sovereign citizens movements in the United States and elsewhere. They reject the authority of the modern German state and promote the notion of “natural rights,” often mixing this ideology with far-right politics and esoteric conspiracy theories.
The Interior Ministry said around 400 police officers had seized firearms, propaganda material and small amounts of drugs during the raids on the homes of 21 leading members of the group.
“We are dealing with a group that distributes racist and anti-Semitic writings and in doing so systematically poisons our free society,” Seehofer said in a statement.
The head of Germany’s Central Council of Josef Schuster welcomed the ban.
“Right now the state mustn’t let up in the fight against right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and racism,” he said, adding that in times of crisis — such as the current coronavirus pandemic — conspiracy theories proliferate.
“The Reich citizens movement with its militant and revisionist ideology poses a big danger for our democracy and peaceful coexistence,” he said.
Authorities say members of the newly banned group, whose activities were focused in Berlin, had issued threats against German officials.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency says the Reich citizens movement as a whole has about 19,000 members, including almost 1,000 known right-wing extremists.
Authorities have withdrawn hundreds of Reich citizens’ firearms permits in recent years.