Protesters and counter-protesters demonstrated outside German regional broadcaster WDR's headquarters in Cologne on Saturday, as the viral controversy over a song about grandmas and the environment that ignited #Omagate continued to rage.
A heavy and active police presence kept apart about 30 people protesting against WDR — some of whom were members of far-right groups — and a larger crowd of mostly more youthful counter-demonstrators, with some waving banners showing allegiance to Fridays for Futures offshoot groups — Parents and Grandparents for Futures.
Among the protest groups were grandparents, the intended targets of the WDR satirical song which calls them "old environmental pigs," and later the target of a comment from WDR journalist Danny Hollek who suggested that grandmothers were "Nazi pigs." Hollek has since retracted his comment and apologized, but not before receiving death-threats and members of far-right groups had met in front of his home.
Grandmas were present at both the right-wing aligned and counter-protest and their comments and opinions on the song and subsequent fallout cut to the heart of a debate over the role of state-funded media.
'My grandma helped rebuild Germany'
For Heidrun Genutt, a 58-year-old grandmother who has a one year-and-a-day-old grandchild, the follow-up comment from Hollek was why she joined the protest outside WDR.
Holding a sign that read "my grandma was a Trümmerfrau (rubble woman)" — a German term referring to women who were seen as the driving force to rebuild Germany after the second world war — Genutt said she was protesting because she objected to the comment that anyone who disagreed with the contentious WDR song was a Nazi pig.
"We are completely normal people, we just want to carry on living a normal life and also for our children and grandchildren" and that she had originally taken offense to the song because she always separates her rubbish and she's the type of person that cuts open a toothpaste tube to use the last bit.
The 70-year-old Yadranka agreed, saying that the "grandma is a Nazi pig comment really annoyed me" adding "I don't want support programs like this financially."
For Yadranka, state media "doesn't report neutrally anymore" and that "they don't represent the interests of the people that they finance." For her, she thought it was important to protest "to show a sign that you've crossed a line."
I don't need the far-right to protect me
Over in the counter-protest, 67-sear-old Martina, who has two grandchildren "aged seven and a half and four and three quarters" said "I honestly didn't like the term 'sau' because I'm not a pig I'm a person, but the content of the song is completely right and people ought to people able to express that. I find everything in the song correct except the "sow" bit. Clearly you need to have different opinions, but when it's against the right-wing you should only have one opinion."
And 69-year-old Christa, who is grandmother to three grandchildren aged 1-and-a-half, 4 and 5-years-old, said that although she wasn't particularly impressed by the song, she thought it was "ridiculous" that she might feel personally insulted by the song.
For her the most important reason she decided to join the protest on Saturday was that she didn't like how her status as grandmother had been used by the far-right: "they say we are protecting the German grandmothers — I don't need protection from them — I do that well enough myself."
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