Riot police in the eastern German city of Chemnitz braced Monday for new far-right protests after a knife killing, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi man, sparked racist mob attacks that were deplored by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A strong police presence Monday evening “will prevent aggressors from taking over the streets” again, vowed Saxony state Interior Minister Roland Woeller after what helabeledd “a new dimension in the escalation” of simmering local tensions.
Ugly and violent scenes Sunday of some 800 far-right hooligans and other mostly male and white protesters taking to the streets, chasing and attacking foreigners have sparked widespread revulsion about the hate-fuelled vigilantism.
Footage on social media, republished by mainstream media groups, showed angry protesters shouting “we are the people” and “you’re not welcome here” at those they believed to foreigners.
Police said extremists attacked an 18-year-old Afghan and his German female companion, 15, punched a Syrian man, 18, and grabbed and threatened a 30-year-old Bulgarian man.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that “riotous assemblies, the hunting down of people who appear to be from different backgrounds or the attempt to spread hate in the streets have no place in our country.”
Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer called the scenes “disgusting”, while the Turkish community in Germany labeled the street violence “an attempted pogrom.”
A lawmaker of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party appeared, however, to endorse the vigilantism, writing on Twitter that “If the state can no longer protect the citizen, then people will go on the streets and protect themselves.”
Anti-migrant protest condemning fatal strife in #Chemnitz met by counter-protest
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) August 27, 2018
‘No to Racism and Violence’
In central Chemnitz, a drab city in the ex-communist east, flowers and a candle marked the spot of the knife killing where a blood stain remained on the ground.
Police said Monday they had arrested a Syrian man, 23, and an Iraqi man, 22, on suspicion they had killed a German man, 35, with multiple stab wounds in an altercation in the early hours of Sunday.
Two others, men aged 33 and 38, were hospitalized with severe injuries after the fight on the sidelines of a street festival, police said.
“The investigation, especially into the motive, the details of the crime and the murder weapon, is ongoing,” police said in a brief statement.
Woeller urged calm in the city and asked that its people not believe “online misinformation, rumors, speculation and outright lies.”
News of the late-night killing had sparked an AfD vigil and angry calls on social media by football hooligans for the rallies Sunday, in which the hundreds of men initially overwhelmed police, hurling rocks and bottles.
On Monday, the right-wing populist movement “Pro Chemnitz” planned to rally, while anti-fascist groups vowed counter-protests and the far-left Die Linke party organized a demonstration under the theme “no to racism and violence.”
The far-right and anti-Islam PEGIDA movement’s Chemnitz and West Saxony regional chapter said: “Muster strength from anger and sadness! Only together can we ensure that his death was not pointless.”
Saxony state has become a hotspot for racist hate crimes as resentment runs deep in the region against the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers in Germany since 2015.