neo-nazi gang

Alarm after violence in Chemnitz

Ermittlungen nach spontaner Demo in Chemnitz
Hunting the hunters. Source: DPA

The police are making arrests after a killing and mob attack in Chemnitz during the weekend.

Riots in Chemnitz over the weekend are drawing condemnation after right-wing hooligans hounded people of color after the killing of a German man. Early Sunday at 3 a.m., a 35-year old German man was stabbed, and later died of his wounds. Two other men were hospitalized in the fracas, one 38, the other 33.

The Alternative for Germany, a populist party, then swiftly organized a spontaneous protest that drew about 100 protestors. The protest was followed by a gathering from the soccer hooligan group, Kaotic Chemnitz, which is aligned with the town’s soccer team. Kaotic’s gathering drew 800 people who marched through the city and then began hunting people of color.

A report in Bild newspaper noted that the demonstrators included right-wingers protesting about crimes committed by people from abroad. The protesters were violent, shouting slogans such as “we are the people,” which has Nazi echoes. Posts on social media said: “Let’s show who has a say in this town.”

The police later reported a series of injuries including a Bulgarian man who was threatened, two Afghan teenagers who were attacked and another person who was followed. As the situation escalated, police canceled a street fair and struggled to reign in the demonstration, which broke through a chain of security officials and marched through the city.

The police have now been criticized for failing to act faster and for hesitating to call for reinforcements from neighboring Leipzig, which took time to arrive.

On Monday, police filed arrest warrants for two men, a 23-year-old Syrian and an Iraqi, aged 22, for an attack “without justifiable cause.” The police are preparing a further four arrests, including two reportedly for causing bodily harm and one for threatening behavior, and for resisting arrest, officers said.

Further marches, by right- and left-wing groups, are expected by the police in Chemnitz, a town of 246,000 people, in the former East Germany. Security officials said there were calls online for demonstrations and the police are currently weighing how to respond. They continue to question people about the incident and were unwilling to say more as the investigation is underway. They denied rumors on social media that the attack followed a fight after a woman was harassed.

The government condemned what were essentially riots. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said “such violence as was seen in Chemnitz and on videos has no place in our country.” Saxony’s interior minister, Roland Wöller, echoed the comments and called for calm. The mayor of Chemnitz, Barbara Ludwig, said she was incensed at how the street party — a peaceful celebration of the city’s birthday — had become a violent protest. Local police called on people not to fall for rumors and speculation in the web.

But the case drew attention and was politicized even as events unfolded, with reports and rumors swirling about migrants, further deaths and women being attacked. Right wing sites on Facebook reported the killers “looked southern” or were Russian-German.

Stadtfest Chemnitz nach Tötungsdelikt abgebrochen
An impromptu memorial for the stabbing victim. Source: DPA

The Alternative for Germany added fire to the flames after a lawmaker said that if the police could not defend people, they would take to the streets to do so themselves. The far-right party is virulently opposed to migration.

As the case unfolds, feelings are running high. Right-wing commentators alleged a “media coverup” and liberal media, they claimed, weren’t reporting on the case because it undermines “their narrative.” A reader wrote that left-wing bias obscures how asylum-seekers overwhelm small towns.

Elections will take place next year in the state, where the populace is increasingly polarized. As right-wing violence continues to increase, the parties will have to decide how to respond: The Christian Democrats will likely push for law and order, amid provocation from the Alternative for Germany.

Allison Williams is deputy editor of Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: williams@handelsblatt.com

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