German farmers began a week of nationwide protests Monday, causing traffic jams across the country as they blocked streets and highways with thousands of tractors and trucks.
Monday's actions were the latest in a series of protests venting anger over the coalition government's decision to cut some diesel subsidies to farmers and transport truckers.
The cuts were due to budget shortfalls after Germany's Constitutional Court declared Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government could not reallocate tens of billions in coronavirus relief funds for other purposes.
Not only did convoys consisting of thousands of tractors and trucks cut off cities, they also halted production at a Volkswagen facility in the northern German city of Emden.
In Lower Saxony, one protester was seriously injured and had to be flown to a hospital after being struck by a vehicle that drove onto the sidewalk alongside a blocked street.
Anti-government sentiment and far-right symbols prominent at protests
Many of the vehicles involved in Monday's protests featured banners emblazoned with the logo of the far-right nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has unsurprisingly come out in support of farmers rallying against the government.
Politicians from other parties, including the conservative CDU/CSU, as well as the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), have also voiced support.
Security experts, however, have warned that the increasingly aggressive protest is at risk of being infiltrated by extreme anti-government organizations. Some of the protests have been accompanied by people brandishing far-right symbols and clashing with police — much like those seen at anti-vaccine and anti-migrant protests in the past.
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck — who has become the target of angry farmers, some of whom tried to board and confront him on a ferry that he, his wife and numerous other passengers were on Thursday — warned in a social media video that some involved in the actions were spreading "coup fantasies,” adding that, "nationalist symbols are being openly displayed."
In response, German Farmers' Association (DBV) President Joachim Rukwied said, "I see no danger at all of our association being infiltrated [by the far right]."
Instead, Rukwied accused the government of "robbing agriculture of its future viability" and "jeopardizing the secure supply of high-quality domestic food."