Approximately 500 Neo-Nazis and far-right extremists are marching in Berlin on Saturday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Hitler’s first deputy and right-hand man Rudolf Hess, German media reported. At the same time hundreds of counter-demonstrators have gathered near the parade in Berlin's Spandau district, separated by hundreds of heavily armored police, according to AP.
Berlin police spokesman Carsten Mueller told The Associated Press that authorities gave permission to far-right extremists to hold the rally in the city, but imposed a number of restrictions on Saturday's march to ensure it passes peacefully. Police have told organizers they can march, but they're not allowed to glorify Hess “in word, writing or image” who died at Spandau prison, or use military music during the march. The neo-Nazis are allowed to bring banners, one for every 50 participants.
The demonstrators are also allowed to use two pieces by Beethoven and two by Wagner during the march, the court order said, as cited by Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. Berliner Kurier newspaper released a route, which the demonstration should reportedly use. “I regret nothing,” a banner held by demonstrators read during the neo-Nazi march.
The measures are aimed at balancing free speech rights and rights of counter-demonstrators, Sven Richwin, a Berlin lawyer told AP. “Anything intimidating is ‘verboten,' [Eng: forbidden]” Richwin added.
According to AP, such restrictions are common in Germany and rooted in the experience of the pre-war Weimar Republic, "when opposing political groups would try to forcibly interrupt their rivals' rallies, resulting in frequent bloody street violence."
The exact rules differ according to the circumstances, but police in Germany say they generally try to balance protesters' rights to free speech and free assembly against the rights of counter-demonstrators and residents. As the AP adds, according to German rules, the shields, helmets and batons carried by far-right and Neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville last weekend wouldn't be allowed in Germany.
Furthermore, openly anti-Semitic chants would prompt German police to intervene, although efforts would be made to detain specific individuals rather than to stop an entire rally, police say.
In the meantime, left-wing groups are holding a counter-protest, expected to draw some 1,000 people, in Spandau, AP reported.
Viva la Antifa...Spandau pic.twitter.com/4ntrbgJHp7— Rebella Kurp (@rebellakurp) August 19, 2017
Hess, who received a life sentence at the Nuremberg trials for his role in planning World War II, died on Aug. 17, 1987. Allied authorities ruled his death a suicide, but Nazi sympathizers have long claimed that he was killed and organize annual marches in his honor. He was the deputy Führer from 1933 until he embarked on a covert mission to Britain in 1941 in an effort to secure a peace treaty between the UK and Nazi Germany.
The marches used to take place in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel, where Hess was buried until authorities removed his remains.
Hess was transferred to Spandau Prison following the trials and spent there some 40 years until his death. He was the only Spandau inmate during his last 20 years of imprisonment. Neo-Nazi theories claim that Hess was murdered and his followers consider him a martyr.