Berlin march against far-right protests in Chemnitz draws huge numbers

The streets of a Berlin neighborhood were filled with people protesting the recent displays of anti-immigrant hate in Chemnitz. Their march coincided with fresh protests in Chemnitz.

What was expected to be a small gathering of 100 or so individuals speaking out against hate and xenophobia turned into a demonstration of thousands in the Berlin neighborhood of Neukölln on Thursday night.

The demonstration was a counteraction to the far-right protests that have taken place in the city of Chemnitz over the past days, which have included anti-immigrant violence and intimidation. The initial trigger for the protests was the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old German-Cuban man on Sunday, with two foreign-born men under arrest as suspects in the crime. 

While events in the German capital were getting underway, far-right supporters in Chemnitz launched a fresh protest, drawing about 1,000 people. They proceeded without violence as state-level politicians met with the city's citizens. 

Read more: Chemnitz fears for reputation after demonstrators duel

The events that spiraled out of the stabbing have drawn international attention to Germany's struggle to deal with both anti-foreigner sentiment and its far-right factions, which have strong roots in the state of Saxony.

Far-right protesters gathered once again in Chemnitz (above) as the Berlin demonstration got underway

Marching against right-wing violence

The anti-hate demonstration in Berlin was organized by various left-wing political and activist groups, including a local branch of the Left party. It took place under the motto "Whether Chemnitz or Neukölln: Take to streets against right-wing violence."

Berlin police reported that about 5,000 people took part in the march, according to the German news agency dpa. Police also said a private individual had initially registered the event with an expected attendance of 100.  

The demonstration was expected to proceed from Hermannplatz to the city hall of Neukölln, a Berlin area known for its diverse inhabitants.

 

A look at what sparked the protests: The week's demonstrations in Chemnitz and Thursday's in Berlin can be traced back to the fatal stabbing during the early hours of Sunday in Chemnitz. People of "various nationalities" had been involved in the altercation, police said. They took a 22-year-old Iraqi man and a 23-year-old Syrian man into custody in connection with the stabbing, later issuing arrest warrants for them.

Far-right groups subsequently took to social media, using false information to call for anti-immigrant protests that took place later on Sunday. Their protests continued into Monday and included clashes with counterprotesters and more violence aimed at people perceived to be foreign.

Death sparks demonstrations
The demonstrations were sparked by a deadly brawl that broke out in the German city of Chemnitz in the early hours of Sunday (August 26). What started out as a war of words resulted in a 35-year-old man being stabbed to death. Hours later, spontaneous, anti-migrant protests took over the streets of Chemnitz.
German-Cuban killed
A German-Cuban man was stabbed in an altercation involving 10 people, several of whom were of "various nationalities," police sources said. The victim, named only as Daniel H., was apparently well-known among various political groups in the area. Two men in their 30s were also stabbed and seriously injured, and a 22-year-old Iraqi and 23-year-old Syrian are in custody over the killing.
Police reinforcements called
By Sunday afternoon, some 800 people had gathered to protest the man's death, including far-right groups. Authorities said the crowd was largely uncooperative and threw bottles at police officers. Police reinforcements had to be called in from nearby cities. The mobilizations were spontaneous and are thought to have surfaced following calls to demonstrate on social media.
Misinformation
German authorities said that that far-right groups spread misinformation on the internet. Among the false claims was that the victim of the knife attack died protecting a woman.
Protests and counterprotests
Thousands of far-right and counterdemonstrators faced off in a second day of protest Monday. Several people were injured as objects and fireworks were hurled. Video footage showed the far-right "Pro Chemnitz" movement holding a banner with a quote from early 20th century poet Anton Günther reading "German and free we aim to be."
'No place for Nazis'
Counter-demonstrators denouncing right-wing extremism also took to the streets of Chemnitz. Among the protesters were Antifa, who clashed with right-wing demonstrators.

The general reaction in Germany: In the aftermath of the Chemnitz protests, many politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, said right-wing violence had no place in Germany. Local security forces were also criticized for failing to deal appropriately with the far-right violence. The violence has also been condemned internationally.

Read more: Chemnitz: Top bands organize concert against racism

Police reinforcements were brought into Chemnitz in preparation for Thursday's protests

Criminal probe over leaked documents: Public prosecutors will continue to investigate who leaked the arrest warrant of one of the stabbing suspects online to far-right groups. Currently, an official in a Dresden penitentiary is thought to be behind the leak and has been suspended from his position.

Protests expected to continue: More far-right demonstrations have been planned for September 1 in Chemnitz, with the Alternative for Germany party as one of the organizers. Additional police are expected to be brought in from other areas of Germany.

Date 30.08.2018
Author Cristina Burack