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Far right, anti-fascists hold rival protests in restive German city

Updated September 02, 2018

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Demonstrators hold flags of Germany during a protest organised by the right-wing populist "Pro Chemnitz" movement, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the anti-Islam Pegida Movement, on September 1 in Chemnitz. ─ AFP
Demonstrators hold flags of Germany during a protest organised by the right-wing populist "Pro Chemnitz" movement, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the anti-Islam Pegida Movement, on September 1 in Chemnitz. ─ AFP

CHEMNITZ: Supporters and opponents of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal immigration policy held rival demonstrations on Saturday in the city of Chemnitz, where last weekend’s fatal stabbing of a German man by two migrants sparked violent far-right protests.

More than 1,200 policemen kept watch over the rallies in the city, where deep divisions over Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome a million asylum-seekers have flared up since the killing of the 35-year-old man six days ago.

Hundreds of leftist demonstrators gathered in a main square in the city, where only a few days ago far-right demonstrators clashed with police. At the other end of town, far-right demonstrators gathered near a large bust of the father of Communism before starting a march through the city. Riot police watched from a distance.

Merkel, who on Friday wrapped up a three-day visit to Africa, has not yet commented on the events in the city, near the Czech border.

Supporters of far-right groups, including PEGIDA and Alternative for Germany (AfD), say their march is to mourn the man who was stabbed to death and condemn what they say is government inaction in the face of rising migrant crime.

Their leftist opponents accuse them of using the murder to stoke racial hatred against migrants and refugees.

“Who was the stabbing victim?,” asked a woman in her 50s at the leftist demonstration, declining to give her name. “The far-right is exploiting his death by saying: ‘A German has been murdered.’ But he was an anti-fascist and people outside the city don’t know that.”

German police have said little about the man and the circumstances surrounding his murder.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) hold the mayor’s office in Chemnitz and helped organise Saturday’s leftist march, said on Twitter that Germans had a special duty to stand up against any form of fascism.

“When people are once again roaming our streets with the Hitler salute, our history mandates us to stand up for democracy,” he wrote.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2018