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US-Germany City Exchange

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Above: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (front row, centre), Halle Mayor Egbert Geier (front row, left), US-Consul General for the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, Kenichiro Toko (second row, second from left), and members of the ‘Halloren’ (Society of Salt-panners) in Halle (Saale) in Germany for the second phase of a US-Germany City Exchange.

June 2022 

Halle (Saale), Germany

On 21 June 2022, a delegation of representatives from the US cities of Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia, led by Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, travelled to Halle (Saale) in Germany for the second phase of a US-Germany City Exchange.

The delegation met with non-partisan civil society groups which focus on countering right-wing extremism, including Halle gegen Rechts (Halle Against the Right) and Omas gegen Rechts (Grannies Against the Right), as well as Miteinander e.V (Living Together Association), which works against racism, anti-Semitism and all other forms of group-related enmity that lead to discrimination, exclusion and violence.

During the exchange, the cities and CSOs shared their experiences and approaches to counter hate, polarisation and extremism. The delegation also visited the former headquarters of the Identaire Bewegung, a far-right identitarian movement, which was effectively driven out of the town by sustained protests in 2017. The also visited the site of a 2019 terrorist attack, in which a gunman opened fire and killed two civilians. The attacker was targeting a synagogue, which – at the time – had gathered 52 worshippers observing Yom Kippur.

The exchange culminated in a joint signing of the Golden Book of the City of Halle (Saale). Halle’s Mayor, Egbert Geier, was joined by Mayor Van Johnson (Savannah), and the US Consul General for the German States of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, Kenichiro Toko. A joint statement was issued highlighting the common threats facing democracies around the world, including racism, extremism and intolerance, as well as the need to counter these threats through strong partnerships.

Such exchanges between cities have never been more important. With both Halle and Atlanta having experienced attacks in recent years, this was an opportunity for their representatives to share and learn from each other, highlighting the important roles that city leaders and civil society play in the aftermath of an attack.

The Strong Cities Network is incredibly proud of its role in supporting and facilitating this crucial sharing between cities, and promoting the exchange of approaches to prevent and respond to the hate, polarisation and extremism that can give rise to such attacks. Our thanks to Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, the SCN Member Cities of Halle and Atlanta, our civil society colleagues for participating in this remarkable exchange, and the US Department of State, the US Consulates of Hamburg and Leipzig, and the US Department of Homeland Security for their support.

For more information on the Strong Cities Network, and why investing in city-led prevention is so important, read: Why Do Cities Matter? 10 Steps That Cities Can Take to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism.