(With additional reporting by Jodi Rayne)
When asked if she has considered seeding one of Berlin’s schools with chemicals that could incapacitate the gunman, as the interior minister of Texas recently suggested, Frauke Petry, a senior politician in Angela Merkel’s government, replied: “Never.”
Ms. Petry, who also heads the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party, told German radio today that the tactic was an example of irresponsible dialogue with the press in a country that is growing more divided by the day.
“It’s probably not a stupid idea, because the media are looking for conflict,” she said, according to news reports. “So, yes, it was an irresponsible statement.”
Ms. Petry called the idea of a lockdown a “battleground” and said that she preferred “thinking about shooting and debating, a normal mindset,” The Independent reported.
Ms. Petry’s party was the first to win seats in the Bundestag, or parliament, in national elections in 2013, but has lost ground in recent national polls and has lost two of its six seats. The party’s popularity, as measured by the polls, fell from 13 percent in March to 9 percent in April, and it has also won elections in state legislatures, including this weekend’s regional vote in Thuringia.
Another party, Frauke Köhler’s D-09, had hoped to get into the national parliament as the second party in the Bundestag, but the party has been bruised by claims of support from those who made Nazi propaganda and far-right speeches and caricatures.
But Ms. Petry and Ms. Köhler have hinted that they could try again in 2021.
One of the parties that has lost popularity in the aftermath of the March attack was Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, which experienced a 16 percent drop in support after the shooting.
Another decision the minister made in a radio interview was to close off a toy store after it reported a suspicious delivery to one of its branches in the Berlin district of Mitte. (The branch is one of the centerpieces of a huge redevelopment project. According to news reports, Ms. Petry said she thought the package was hazardous and directed her anger at the store for opening it.)
When asked if she thought the police response was too slow, she said, “in hindsight, it was a terror attack. And that means one of three things: Either the police didn’t have the right response, they were wrong or the response was too slow.”