Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest against the far-right party Alternative for Germany, known as AfD, in recent days. Legal scholars are discussing whether the party can be banned. Political leaders are warning of a fundamental threat to society.

“I will say it clearly and harshly: Right-wing extremists are attacking our democracy,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his weekly video message to Germans on Friday. “They want to destroy our cohesion.”

While it is not uncommon for German politicians to warn against the far right, the alarm has taken on new urgency since it was revealed that far-right leaders had held a secret meeting late last year to discuss mass deportations — not just of illegal migrants, but even of German citizens who immigrated to the country, who they do not consider to be fully assimilated.

“It’s the famous straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Matthias Quent, a sociologist who has spent years studying the far right. “It was a trigger for something and it’s not only about the meeting, but the strengthening of the AfD, which frightens many people.”

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