German foreign minister calls for citizens to combat racism
Anti-racism gig to be held in Chemnitz as Germans urged to reject xenophobia
Right-wing protesters behind a row of police in Chemnitz on Saturday. Civil society and right-wing groups called for demonstrations after two refugees were arrested on suspicion of stabbing a man. Photograph: Martin Divisek
An anti-racism rock concert will be held on Monday in an east German town where there have been far-right protests and violence, as Germany’s foreign minister urged people to take a stand against xenophobia.
More than 27,000 people have registered their intent to attend the Wir sind mehr (There are more of us) concert in Chemnitz. The German punk band Die Toten Hosen, Kraftklub and the rappers Marteria and Casper are among those expected to play.
A post on the event’s Facebook page said: “Racism cannot be allowed to run unchallenged on the streets.
“For all of those people, who have been attacked by neo-Nazis, and who stand for values such as tolerance, respect and humanity, we want to show you that you are not alone.”
Chemnitz has been in the spotlight since violent protests erupted over the fatal stabbing of a German man, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi, last Sunday. Some demonstrators have been photographed giving the outlawed Hitler salute, while mobs have chased foreigners in the street.
On Sunday, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, called for citizens to be more active in the fight against racism. “Unfortunately, we have become too comfortable in our society, and we have to get over that,” he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
“We have to get up from our sofas and open our mouths,” he said, stressing that “all of us have to show the world that we democrats are the majority and the racists are the minority”.
“The silent majority must get louder,” Maas said.
Almost 10,000 people are estimated to have taken part in protests in Chemnitz on Saturday – led by members of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the anti-Islam Pegida movement – as well as in a counter-demonstration. More than 1,800 police officers from nine different German states were drafted in to control the events, according to police in Saxony.
As with previous protests, the press were targeted with chants of “lugenpresse” (lying press). In one of the more serious incidents, a camera team from the German broadcaster MDR was assaulted when they requested access to a balcony to film the demonstrations. Overall, 18 people were injured, including three officers, police said.
They are also examining at least 37 possible offences, including bodily harm, property damage and resistance against law enforcement officers.
Away from Chemnitz town centre, a 20-year-old Afghan man sustained light injuries after he was assaulted by four masked men. Police said they were investigating whether the perpetrators were among the demonstrators.
Resentment over Angela Merkel’s decision three years ago to keep Germany’s borders open to asylum seekers has fuelled far-right sentiment in recent years, with the right-wing AfD now the main opposition party in Germany’s parliament.
Misgivings run particularly high in Saxony, where Chemnitz is located. The birthplace of Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West, was the scene of a number of protests by the group that pulled in tens of thousands of participants in 2014 and 2015. – Guardian News and Media 2018