On the 27th August, 2018, anti-immigrantion protestors clashed with foreigners on the streets of Chemnitz in the eastern state of Saxony, just one day after the fatal stabbing of a man known only as Daniel H. The two men accused of the murder are believed to be of Syrian and Iraqi descent. Protestors from the far-right group Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) were apparently spotted hunting down foreign looking residents, as they met with police and counter-protestors. Up to 18 people were injured in the protests, among those whose injuries were serious were a Syrian, a Bulgarian and an Afghani national. The AfD who take a strong stance against immigration appeared to reveal in the panic caused by the violence.
Many of these protests were organized through social media pages, which the police had admitted they fail to monitor due to under resourcing. Markus Frohnmaier, a policy maker for the AfD, tweeted “Heute ist es Bürgerpflicht, die todbringendendie “Messermigration” zu stoppen! Es hätte deinen Vater, Sohn oder Bruder treffen können!” (Today, it is civic duty to stop the death by ‘knife migration’. It could have met your father, son or brother!) However, the Premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer called for locals to “stand by our foreign fellow citizens” and reject the stereotyping of foreigners. These sentiments were echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who claimed the actions of both the accused murders and the protestors had “nothing to do with our constitutional state.” Merkel’s generous immigration policy has previously put her in opposition with the AfD, but these protests do little to alter her position.
The German Chancellor has further pledged federal resources to strengthen security in these areas for the foreseeable future. This move should prove beneficial in assisting local Chemnitz Police to curb violence and prevent any further injuries. Although parties such as the AfD utilize crime as justification for stemming immigration, official statistics show that crime rates are the lowest they have been since 1992. It is virtually impossible to quiet protesting groups, but it is essential that German politicians from the governing coalition and social leaders remain vocal in their support for a peaceful resolution. Fear and panic are often drivers of hate, and the success of the AfD anti-immigration campaign relies on these pillars holding in society. With reassurance from police and government members, locals of Chemnitz may be prevented from joining far-right movements and perpetuating violence. It is essential that messages of love continue to be spread by counter-protest groups urging locals to protect foreigners from the violence.
The fatal stabbing of Daniel H, a 35-year-old carpenter, occurred on the night of Sunday the 26th August. Details of the altercation are unclear; however, witnesses recount a street brawl between the two accused and the victim. Spontaneous protests were called in the man’s honour by far-right organizations such as AfD. While the organizations have shown support for Daniel H, sources close to the victim suggest that prior to his death he used social media to condemn the anti-immigration sentiment. Therefore, the AfD should withdraw from violent protests that they carry out in the name of a man whose patronage they’d never gained.
Although crime rates are low, and foreign immigration is declining the AfD continues to gain political support from German citizens. It is essential that Merkel and her coalition continue to be vocal in condemning racial violence in an effort to reduce support for far-right groups. Benefits may also be seen through cross-party negotiation on social issues, which will reduce the perceived ‘need’ for violent protests. Peace in Eastern Germany is possible, but violent protests and antagonization of others will merely result in further conflict. It is time for all parties to show their capability as lawmakers, by demonstrating leadership through peaceful solutions.
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