9 injured in German protests for and against migrants

Chemnitz, GermanyUpdated: Sep 02, 2018, 02:41 PM IST

File photo of far-right groups gathering in Chemnitz, Germany for a protest march. Photograph:(Reuters)

Nine people were injured Saturday on the sidelines of opposing demonstrations by the far-right and the left in the German city of Chemnitz, which was hit by anti-migrant protests last week.

Chemnitz has been in the spotlight after violent xenophobic protests erupted over the fatal stabbing of a German man, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi last Sunday.

On Saturday, thousands of people answered a joint call by far-right party AfD and Islamophobic PEGIDA street movement to descend once again on the streets.

But an equally large contingent of counter protesters, including Green party and Social Democratic Party MPs, also converged in former communist city to take a stand against racism.

According to police estimates, a total of 9,500 demonstrators turned up for the separate protests. 

Local police, backed up by officers from across Germany, were out in force to keep both sides from clashing during the demonstrations.

But as the rallies cleared, scuffles took place among small groups, leaving nine people injured, police said in a statement released late Saturday.

Police are also examining at least 25 possible offences, including bodily harm, property damage and resistance against law enforcement officers.

Away from Chemnitz city centre, a 20-year-old Afghan man suffered light injuries after he was assaulted by four masked men. Police said they were investigating if the perpetrators counted among demonstrators.

Two smaller protests were planned on Sunday. One is titled "Chemnitz residents sending a democratic signal against violence and xenophobia" while the second is organised by the protestant church. 

Another major event is expected on Monday, when German punk band Die Toten Hosen leads a free concert against racism.

The tensions in Chemnitz have revived debate over Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision three years ago to keep Germany's borders open to asylum seekers, many fleeing war in Syria and Iraq.

Misgivings run high in Saxony state, where Chemnitz is located, over the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015. 

The far-right AfD party has won strong support in the region through its campaign against migrant arrivals, and surveys suggest that it is poised to become Saxony's second biggest party in next year's regional elections.