Chemnitz: Mayor of German far-right stronghold city attempts to reassure foreign residents

'There’s a lot of uncertainty and fear'

Adam Forrest
Friday 31 August 2018 16:43
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Far-right protesters take to streets in Chemnitz, Germany after man killed

The mayor of Chemnitz has tried to reassure foreign students and business investors that the east German city is safe, despite an eruption of far-right violence.

Barbara Ludwig admitted that “at the moment there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear on various sides” following unrest across the city in Saxony earlier this week.

Images of neo-Nazis shouting “foreigners out” at protests held on Sunday and Monday made headlines around the world. The fury was sparked by the suspected knife killing of a German man by migrants at the weekend.

Members of the far-right mob reportedly tried to attack “dark-skinned bystanders” on the streets of Chemnitz, with outnumbered police officers helpless to intervene.

The outbreak of lawlessness raised concern among businesses and the city’s University of Technology, which hosts a large number of non-German students.

Ms Ludwig told reporters on Friday the authorities would endeavour to make foreigners feel welcome in Chemnitz.

“We’re going to make clear in the coming weeks and months that foreign students and foreign investors do indeed have their place in this city and will be safe here,” she said.

Ms Ludwig also addressed a crowd of around 600 people at meeting for Chemnitz community groups on Thursday night. According to a CNN report, she was booed for saying “it was difficult” for the authorities to know how to tackle far-right violence.

Ten people are now being investigated by police over Nazi salutes during Monday’s protests. The gesture is illegal in Germany.

Chemnitz has become accustomed to witnessing small Neo-Nazi demonstrations over the years. Fascist groups traditionally march on March 5, mourning the day the city was bombed by allied forces in 1945.

These rallies typically feature only a few hundred people at one time. Sunday’s impromptu protest, however, saw 8,000 people gather on the streets of the city.

Experts believe many people voting for the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) were among those who joined the mob. Anti-migrant sentiment has been strong across the state of Saxony, with about a quarter of voters backing the AfD at last year’s election.

“This mix of far-right extremists and AfD voters was new,” Hajo Funke, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin, told the New York Times.

Two men, an Iraqi national and a Syrian national have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s stabbing.

A justice official in Saxony allegedly leaked the arrest warrant for the two suspects, prompting an investigation by the regional justice ministry.

More far-right marches are planned in Chemnitz this Saturday.

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