German police use water cannon to part right-wing, left-wing protests

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  • Rage on the streets

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German police use water cannon to part right-wing, left-wing protests

German police deployed water cannon in dealing with opposing right-wing and left-wing demonstrations in the eastern city of Chemnitz on Monday as protestors clashed over a fatal weekend stabbing with a racial aspect.

The death of a 35-year-old German man during an altercation involving migrants in the early hours of Sunday sparked two days of violent protests.

A 23-year-old Syrian and a 22-year-old Iraqi appeared in court in the city in the state of Saxony on Monday in connection with the stabbing and were remanded in custody.

As many as 2,000 right-wing demonstrators attended Monday's rally, facing off against around 1,000 counter-demonstrators, with police striving to keep the two groups apart. The demonstrators set off fireworks and a rocket.

Police said at least two people had been hurt in the protests and suggested that number could rise, but as the evening wore on, the demonstrations began to subside.

The left-wing demonstrators chanted, "National Socialism out of people's heads" and "There is no right to Nazi propaganda."

Speaking in front of the city hall, Tim Detzner, the head of the hard left Die Linke party, said: "The hunting down of people who appear foreign alarms us. We want to show that Chemnitz has another face: open to the world and against xenophobia."

The right-wing protestors unfurled a banner with a quote from early 20th century German folk poet Anton Guenther reading, "German and free we aim to be."

The authorities had called in police reinforcements ahead of the protests that followed the fatal stabbing in which right-wing demonstrators targeted passers-by of foreign appearance.

Chemnitz police chief Sonja Penzel said police would not allow demonstrators to seize control of the city. She said there had been around 50 violent participants in Sunday's 800-strong demonstration by right-wingers and called for any videos of the event to be handed to the authorities.

Police were pelted with bottles and stones at the weekend event. Three people - an Afghan, a Syrian and a Bulgarian - have filed complaints so far.

German politicians moved swiftly to condemn the attacks.

The German government strongly condemned the behaviour of right-wing extremists who spontaneously gathered on Sunday for what it referred to as "hunting down" foreigners.

"What was witnessed in parts of Chemnitz yesterday and what was also recorded on video has no place in our constitutional state," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

"We will not accept such mob-like behaviour, such hunts of people with a different appearance, a different heritage, or the attempt to spread hate on the streets; this has no place in our cities and I can state on behalf of the federal government that we strongly condemn this," Seibert said.

The premier of the state of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, condemned the violence.

"It's repulsive the way right-wing extremists foment sentiment on the internet calling for violence. We will not allow our country's image to be tarnished," he told dpa in the state capital of Dresden.

Saxony Interior Minister Roland Woeller called for the investigation to be allowed to proceed. "We have speculation, assumptions, false reports and outright lies on the internet," he said.

Local media reported that participants in Sunday's demonstration shouted violent threats at immigrants and chanted "We are the people," a slogan originally used during protests against the former East German communist regime, but which has been adopted by right-wingers who claim they are being overlooked by the government.

Video footage circulating on social media showed protesters attacking migrants and other people of non-German appearance on the street, but a police spokeswoman was not able to verify the footage on Monday.

Anti-migrant and anti-foreigner sentiment and crimes against these groups have been on the rise in Germany since Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to hundreds and thousands of migrants in 2015.

A right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), gained seats in the national parliament in the 2017 legislative elections largely as a result of the refugee crisis.

The AfD distanced itself from the violence. Saxony party head Joerg Urban said an AfD event taking place in the city on Sunday had "absolutely nothing to do with the later hunting scenes in the city."

Notebook

Note to editors

  • Releads with police deploying watter cannon, adds numbers of demonstrators in fourth paragraph and details.

The following information is not intended for publication

Editorial contacts

  • Reporting by: Kristin Kruthaup in Dresden, Martin Kloth and André Jahnke in Chemnitz and Birgit Zimmermann in Leipzig
  • Editing by: Bill Heaney, +49 30 2852 31472, <international@dpa.com>

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