A village in Brandeburg, north-eastern Germany, made up of a crossroad and 80 residents, became a microcosm of the country last week.
As darkness pressed in on Freienthal, protesters whistled and brandished soccer-style red cards at cars heading toward the local village hall.
Outside the hall, people grabbed a beer and a bratwurst before taking their seats inside, ignoring calls from the protesters down the road to come and talk.
They came for an evening of conversation with the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), Germany’s leading far-right party.
To one camp, this meeting represented a call for political change; to the other, a risk to German democracy. That vehement disagreement is one being played out across the nation as it heads towards regional elections in September.
After far-right gains in several European countries, most notably in the Netherlands and Italy, Germany may follow suit.
The organizer of the anti-AfD protests in Freienthal, Adam Sevens, told CNN that “the AfD plans only reveal the xenophobia, hatred and bigotry that exists in this country. Now is the time for us to stand up.”
That sentiment may not be unfounded. One attendee, a nurse who refused to give her name, told us she was happy someone was speaking up for her, adding: “I’m glad that someone is taking care of all this scum that has spread here in our country, in our beautiful Germany – it really is a state.”