Thousands of far-right, anti-immigrant protesters have clashed with counterprotesters in the eastern German city of Chemnitz over the past two days, amplifying tensions over the issue of migration.
But after the stabbing incident on Sunday, far-right groups called on their supporters to gather in Chemnitz to “defend” their country from migrants, according to the New York Times. The Guardian reports that at least three individuals, including a Syrian, a Bulgarian, and an Afghan, were injured in Sunday’s riots.
On Monday, the protests intensified when thousands of far-right demonstrators descended on the city center en masse. They chanted nationalistic slogans (“Chemnitz is ours — foreigners out”) and reportedly gave Nazi salutes. They also clashed with hundreds of leftist counterprotesters, leaving more than a dozen injured. A video also circulated that showed what appeared to be right-wing protesters chasing a person whom they perceived to be a foreigner through the streets.
In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered to send federal assistance to quell the violence, as local police faced criticism for failing to tamp down the demonstrations and counterdemonstrations.
Merkel also condemned the protests, with her spokesperson saying that “what was seen yesterday in parts of Chemnitz and what was recorded on video has no place in our country.”
VIDEO: Xenophobia rears its head in eastern Germany with far-right protests in the city of #Chemnitz degenerating into attacks against foreign-looking people after Sunday's fatal stabbing of a German man, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi pic.twitter.com/ToMkN00mG1— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 28, 2018
A third day of protests was planned for Tuesday, the Guardian reports.
Germany’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), appeared to help fan the tensions in Chemnitz, with some its leaders voicing support for the far-right protesters. Markus Frohnmaier, an AfD MP, tweeted, “If the state is no longer to protect citizens then people take to the streets and protect themselves. It’s as simple as that!”
Protests break out as the far right rises in Germany
In the eastern German state of Saxony, where Chemnitz is located, the party has made big gains; according to the Associated Press, the AfD won nearly a quarter of the vote just in Chemnitz last year.
The rise of the AfD and anti-immigrant sentiment has put pressure on Merkel and her increasingly fragile governing coalition. In July, Merkel agreed to impose more restrictions on asylum seekers to help preserve her position in the government.
Immigration has dipped sharply from its high point in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and persecution sought refuge in Europe. But many countries are still struggling to absorb the nearly 2 million newcomers spread out across the continent — and dealing with the xenophobia that has erupted in the wake of the influx.