Mainstreaming the Radical Right?

The Ambiguous Populism of the COVID-19 Street Protests in Germany

in German Politics and Society
Michael Neuber Postdoctoral Researcher, Technical University Berlin, Germany

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In Germany, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against the government's measures to handle the covid-19 pandemic. These protests started in the spring of 2020. What makes these protests puzzling is their unusual heterogeneous political composition and ambiguous symbolism. This article argues that protesters used the pandemic (and calls for “freedom” from restrictions) to bridge left- and right-wing movement frames. Importantly, though, the amplification of radical right strands of populist discourse played a central role in this frame-bridging. These arguments are supported by a visual discourse analysis using photographs of demonstrators and protest materials (N = 212) taken at the Berlin “Querdenken” demonstration on 29 August 2020. The implications of these findings for the mainstreaming of right-wing politics are then discussed.

Contributor Notes

Michael Neuber is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Technology and Society of the Technical University of Berlin in the “Social Movements, Technology, Conflict” area. The focus of his work is on the study of cultural practices of social movements, with a particular focus on environmental movements and populist mobilization. Email:

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