Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday condemned violent far-right protests that degenerated into attacks against foreign-looking people, saying ‘hate in the streets’ has no place in Germany.
After the fatal stabbing of a German man, 35, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi, thousands of protesters marched in the eastern city of Chemnitz for two straight days, some chasing down people they believed were immigrants.
Police reported assaults by extremists against at least three foreigners on Sunday, while investigations were opened in 10 cases of the protesters performing the illegal Hitler salute.
At least 20 people were injured on Monday as pyrotechnics and other objects were hurled by both far-right demonstrators as well as anti-fascist counter-protesters in the city.
‘What we have seen is something which has no place in a constitutional democracy,’ Merkel told journalists.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned violent far-right protests saying ‘hate in the streets’ has no place in Germany
Right wing demonstrators light flares on August 27, 2018 in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, following the death of a 35-year-old German national who died in hospital after a ‘dispute between several people of different nationalities’
Demonstrators show their nationality at Breslauerplatz in Cologne, Germany, today
Counter demonstrators react to right wing protesters gathering in Cologne
German police patrols around as counter demonstrators react to right wing protesters gathering at Breslauerplatz in Cologne
‘We have video recordings of (people) hunting down others, of unruly assemblies, and hate in the streets, and that has nothing to do with our constitutional state.’
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said federal police were ready to provide backup for overwhelmed officers in Saxony state, where Chemnitz is located.
The right-wing protesters chanted ‘We are the People’ and the Nazi-era term ‘Luegenpresse’ (lying press) while displaying placards that read ‘Stop the refugee flood’ and ‘Defend Europe’, the latter adorned with an image of an automatic rifle.
Some carried banners or insignia of the far-right AfD and neo-Nazi NPD parties and other extremist groups, while a handful delivered the illegal right-handed Hitler salute, police said.
Left-wing counter protesters yelled slogans like ‘Nazis out’ and ‘There’s no right to Nazi propaganda,’ at a larger group of right-wing demonstrators that retorted with ‘We are louder, we are more’ and ‘Lying press.’
Of the estimated 800 people who took part in the first round of protests, about 50 were involved in violence and attacked police officers with bottles and stones, Chemnitz Police Chief Sonja Penzel said.
Riot police escort a bleeding right-wing supporter during a confrontation with leftists the day after a man was stabbed
Riot police watch right-wing supporters who gathered the day after a man was stabbed in the city
Riot policemen stand guard as the right-wing supporters protest throwing flares in the air and waving the German flag
A Syrian teenager and an Afghan teenager were attacked in separate incidents but were not seriously hurt and a 30-year-old Bulgarian was also threatened, she said.
Penzel said police are still evaluating video footage and called for any witnesses to the violence to come forward.
Officers in riot gear pushed people back as they tried to get at those on the other side. The demonstrators from the right hurled bottles and firecrackers at the rival camp before starting off on a march.
Initially around 100 people gathered after being urged on to the streets by a far-right football group who urged supporters to show ‘who is in charge’.
While that demonstration passed off largely without event, a much larger group of 800 gathered later around a statue of Karl Marx, catching police by surprise.
During the violent demonstrations, marchers chanted ‘we are the people! and ‘this is our city!’
Left-wing and right-wing groups of over a thousand people each confronted each other as riot police stood in between
The victim has been named as Daniel Hillig, 35, a married carpenter from Chemnitz, who was fatally injured during the 3am fight on Monday morning
The ugly scenes of mostly white men, many of them extremist football hooligans, hurling abuse at people they deemed to be foreigners, have deeply alarmed Germany.
‘Of course history is not repeating itself, but that a far-right mob is on a rampage in the middle of Germany and the authorities are overwhelmed, is reminiscent of the situation during the Weimar Republic,’ said Spiegel Online.
The Weimar years were marked by the formation of paramilitary groups, such as the Sturmabteilung or SA, which eventually helped the Nazis to power.
Josef Schuster, who chairs the Central Council of Jews in Germany, also voiced his alarm, saying it is ‘now the duty of citizens to counter the far-right mob’.
Anetta Kahane of the anti-racism Amadeu Antonio Foundation told news channel NTV that, while people have the right to demonstrate, ‘what happened in Chemnitz went beyond that – it was incitement to hatred and the propagation of pogrom sentiment.’
Jens Lorek, a lawyer for the right-wing Pegida movement, carries away flares thrown during a confrontation between left and right-wing protesters the day after a man was stabbed and died of his injuries
Hundreds of riot police separated the noisy crowd – whose mostly male members were chanting slogans against ‘criminal foreigners’ and waving black-red-gold German national flags – from more than 1,000 anti-fascist counter protesters
The circumstances that led to the death of the German man remain unclear, but the far-right quickly mobilised Sunday as word spread online that the key suspects were foreigners.
Saxony’s interior minister Roland Woeller said hooligans from across Germany, including as far as the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, had travelled to Chemnitz for the marches.
State premier Michael Kretschmer warned that a false claim that the man was stabbed while defending a woman was circulating online, as he urged the population to seek credible news sources.
He also stressed that the nationalities of the suspects were ‘absolutely no reason to cast general suspicion on all foreign-born citizens’.
Saxony state, where Chemnitz is located and which is the birthplace of the Islamophobic PEGIDA street movement, has repeatedly come under intense scrutiny as a hotbed for hate crimes.
The state is at the heart of misgivings over Germany’s decision to welcome more than a million asylum seekers since 2015, many from war-torn Syria and Iraq.
Pyrotechnics and other objects hurled from both sides left several people injured and requiring hospital treatment, said police, who moved in water canon and urged the crowds to remain calm
Protesters light fireworks during a far-right demonstration: the mood was highly charged a day after the knife attack early Sunday left a 35-year-old man German man dead and sparked street chaos in which marauding right-wing hooligans assaulted people they believed to be immigrants
Railing against the newcomers, the far-right AfD party has made significant gains in Saxony and is poised, according to the latest polls, to become the second biggest party in its regional elections next year.
Critics warned that the authorities have for years failed to take the far-right threat seriously.
‘The state can never allow our streets to be overrun by far-right mobs,’ said Bild daily, adding that at the same time, Berlin needs to promptly deport criminal foreigners.
‘For too long, nothing has been done. That’s why confidence in the state is crumbling. That’s why racists like in Chemnitz think they can do what they want. Nothing could be more dangerous for our country.’
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that ‘where such hunting down of foreigners is possible, the rule of law has abdicated,’ while Die Welt daily warned that ‘the rule of law and police now face a test’.
‘There cannot be a zone of violence, there is no such thing as partial security,’ said Welt.
Men shout and swear during a right-wing protest in Chemnitz
Angela Merkel’s spokesman condemned far-right groups ‘in the strongest possible terms’ after they urged protesters on to the streets in Chemnitz, where they clashed with police
The violence was sparked by the deadly stabbing of a 35-year-old German man during a street festival, after which a 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian have been arrested and held on suspicion of murder.
The stabbing happened around 3.15am, some two hours after the festival had closed, and stemmed from a verbal confrontation that escalated, according to prosecutors.
The victim, named as Daniel Hillig, a local carpenter of Cuban descent, was fatally injured and later died in hospital, while two other men, reportedly in their 30s, suffered serious stab wounds.
Mr Hillig, a married father, had showed support for clothing brand FCK NZS and anti-fascist movement Antifa on social media, and posted about gender equality protests in Turkey as well as legalisation of cannabis.
It is not known what sparked the argument, which allegedly took place by a cashpoint, but police have denied rumours that the fight broke out after the alleged sexual harassment of a woman.
Police vehicles line up following the death of a 35-year-old man and the arrest of two migrants
People demonstrate next to a statue of Karl Marx in the east German city of Chemnitz
Germany has denounced far-right groups ‘spreading hatred on the streets’ after hundreds of followers gathered to protest in the city of Chemnitz on Sunday.
Angela Merkel’s spokesman said he condemns the groups ‘in the strongest possible terms’ after footage emerged of skinheads chasing a man of Arab appearance down the streets and throwing bottles at police.
He added that Germany would not tolerate ‘vigilante justice’.
Following the demonstrations, Merkel spokesman Steffan Seibert said: ‘We don’t tolerate such unlawful assemblies and the hounding of people who look different or have different origins and attempts to spread hatred on the streets.
Hundreds of far-right activists demonstrate in front of a Karl Marx statue in Chemnitz
During the violent demonstrations, marchers chanted ‘we are the people! and ‘this is our city!’
Police patrol the protest in front of the statue of Karl Marx
People hold up signs and protest in Chemnitz following the death of a 35-year-old German man
Mostly male right-wing protesters take on police in the eastern German city following the death of a 35-year-old man
‘That has no place in our cities and we, as the German government, condemn it in the strongest terms.
‘Our basic message for Chemnitz and beyond is that there is no place in Germany for vigilante justice, for groups that want to spread hatred on the streets, for intolerance and for extremism.’
Tweeting about Sunday’s incident, AfD politician Markus Frohnmaier said: ‘If the state is no longer to protect citizens then people take to the streets and protect themselves. It’s as simple as that!’
Martina Renner, a lawmaker for the radical Left party, accused the far-right of trying to exploit a murder for its own political ends.
Hundreds of activists gathered in front of a Karl Marx statue after a man died in hospital following a ‘dispute between several people of different nationalities’
The far-right street movement PEGIDA called for a second day of protests in Chemnitz in ex-communist eastern Germany after the alleged fatal stabbing of a German man by a foreigner
Police in Chemnitz are preparing for further demonstrations. They were expected to issue a further statement about Sunday’s incident later on Monday
Police water cannons passes by a far-right protest in front of a Karl Marx monument in Chemnitz
‘A terrible murder, the background to which is still unclear, is being instrumentalised in the most repugnant way for racist riots in Chemnitz,’ she tweeted.
The violence in Chemnitz is likely to put further pressure on Merkel’s conservatives, who last week faced accusations of ignoring the rise of far-right groups in the eastern state of Saxony, where Chemnitz lies.
Almost a quarter of Chemnitz voters supported the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party last year.
Merkel’s decision in 2015 to let in about a million migrants, many fleeing wars in the Middle East, has fuelled support for far-right groups such as PEGIDA and the AfD, now the main opposition party in parliament.
Steffan Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman, said the government will never support ‘vigilante justice’ and groups that want to ‘spread hatred in the streets’
Far-right groups including a local football firm ordered people to protest to show ‘who is in charge’. Demonstrators were later filmed chasing men of Arabic appearance
The anti-Islam PEGIDA movement’s regional chapter, urged people online to come to Monday’s rally and told them to ‘muster strength from anger and sadness! Only together can we ensure that his death was not pointless’ following the death of a 35-year-old man
German police in riot gear patrols around the statue of Karl Marx as right wing protesters gather at the place where a man was stabbed overnight