It started on Saturday afternoon, when thousands of radical right-wingers, including hundreds of Skinheads and other Nazis, gathered in Chemnitz. About 4500 of them showed up at this event organized by “Pro Chemnitz” and the party AfD (‘Alternative für Deutschland’). The Nazis and AfD participants mixed without timidity, even though the AfD keeps on claiming they were not Nazis.
At the same time, some 4000 counter protesters gathered as well. Among them were left-wingers, but also members of the center-left SPD and residents who have enough of the Nazis in their vicinity. The governor of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, was in Chemnitz. So was the party’s secretary general, Lars Klingbeil.
Late in the evening, 25 penal offenses had been counted, a police spokesman said. Also four mummed individuals attacked and injured an Afghan citizen. Prosecutors were into a case in which TV reporters were supposedly attacked in an apartment. Without the strong police presence, a lot more would have happened.
Officially, the AfD called their event a memorial march for a 35-year-old resident who was allegedly killed by two foreigners in Chemnitz on August 26th. A Syrian and an Iraqi citizen were arrested shortly after. But it was actually more than that. The radical right has been exploiting that death for their purpose, which is spreading xenophobia.
The AfD protest included Bern Höcke, a prominent member of the party. In spite of his Nazi statements, he was not expelled. His quote, the Germans were the only people which had “put a monument of shame in the heart of its capital”, produced headlines around the world. Höcke had meant the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe. Also because of him, the line between the AfD and Nazis is at least blurred, from the perspective of many Germans.
A counter-protester reportedly tried to attack Höcke during the Chemnitz event, but was stopped by security personnel.
Late in the evening, police tried to prevent participants of the counter-march from picking up stones from a track bed. Also, some left-wing protesters tried to block the route for the AfD’s march. According to German-language media reports, police officers stopped them.
A police riding squad and at least six water guns were on site, while provocations between participants of both protests kept on happening. A total of 1800 police officers were on duty in Chemnitz, which used to be called ‘Karl-Marx-Stadt’ when it was part of the communist GDR.
Shortly before 11 p.m., the situation deescalated. The police command started sending officers home, when the number of protesters decreased substantially. It is clear that there would have been a lot of violence, had the authorities not prevented it.
In the meantime, a majority of all Germans wants the AfD observed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. This is the outcome of a poll conducted by the institute Civey for Funke Media Group. According to the study, 42.7 percent of respondents said, the party should “definitely” be observed, while 14.5 percent said “probably”. On the other hand, 23.7 percent said, the AfD should not be watched.
While the discussion about the events and scandals in Chemnitz, as well as about the best way to deal with the mostly young and male Nazis in Saxony is ongoing, an effective recipe for stopping the dangerous phenomenon has not been found. “We need to confront them” is a statement which can be heard in Berlin a lot these days. But it does not say how exactly that goal should be accomplished.