The little-known city of Chemnitz became the focal point of pro- and anti-immigrant movements in late August, following the fatal stabbing of a German national by foreigners in a brawl. Violent protests soon erupted with anti-immigration proponents taking to the streets of the city and eventually overwhelming the local police force. For the days that followed, counter protests also started to take shape and periodic clashes were reported between rival groups. Additional officers were also drafted in from Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia amid criticisms that the city’s police force did not do enough to prevent the violence which broke out during the initial stage.
The latest bout of anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany should not come as a surprise amidst the surge of right-wing populism, not only in the country but much of Europe in recent years. Political parties/movements such as Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Pegida that have witnessed steady increase in terms of support have also been blamed for stoking tension and fueling xenophobic fears in an increasingly polarized Germany. Some argued that one of the main reasons for such a worrying trend is the ability of such movements to capitalize on the feeling of insecurity within the German populace and use them as a tool to attack the migrant communities. For Chemnitz, the fact that it is located in the heartland of far-right leaning Saxony also helped to boost the appeal of the anti-immigrant movements that converged in the city. At least one quarter of the voters in Saxony backed AfD in the state election in September 2017.
As the protests cooled down, it still highlights the problem faced by the four-term Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has been accused of being “migrant-friendly”. As a start, she has already begun to roll back on her plans to take in more migrants in order to preserve her fragile coalition with Christian Social Union (CSU), which is more conservative and faced a challenging task against the AfD in October’s regional election in Bavaria. This stood in contrast from her stance in 2015 when she decided to open the doors of Germany to thousands of asylum seekers from war-torn Syria and Iraq. Then, she also struggled to strike a chord with her coalition partners, particularly the CSU on ways to integrate more than one million mostly Muslim refugees into German society. Even though some headways have been made with regards to integration as one in four asylum seekers who arrived in Germany has managed to find work, it is unlikely to be enough to douse the immigration hysteria that has been gripping parts of Germany.
Moving forward, there is a likelihood of such protests becoming more common on the streets of Germany as the sentiment against migrants rises. The rivalries between pro- and anti-immigration movements at these rallies also have the potential to escalate into clashes as seen during the rallies in Chemnitz. Although the police play a crucial role in this regard, it is also highly advisable for travelers to always be aware of their surroundings and be updated with the local political situation before arriving.
Following are the key events that have been reported by GWS during the rallies in the German city of Chemnitz (all times local):
- Protests broke out in Chemnitz on 26 August following the fatal stabbing of a German by an Iraqi and a Syria migrant in brawl.
- Initial alert (yellow) by GWS at 11:50 (GMT+2) on 27 August
- Event informing users about more protests planned in Chemnitz for the day following the initial commotion the night before.
- First update (yellow) by GWS at 16:25 (GMT+2) on 27 August
- Clashes broke out as the day passed in the city of Chemntiz. Riot police were dispatched as pro- and anti-immigrant groups scuffled.
- Second update by GWS (yellow) at 11:55 (GMT+2) on 30 August
- Another call was issued for anti-immigrant protesters to gather at Chemnitz stadium (Zietenstrasse / Gellerstrasse) in the afternoon. Travellers were advised to take precautionary measures.
- Third update (green) by GWS at 05:35 (GMT+7) on 1 September
- Protest call was issued in Chemnitz by far-right groups such as AfD and Pegida. Anti-fascist groups also planned rival protests on the same day.
- Fourth update (green) by GWS at 05:57 (GMT+7) on 3 September
- An anti-racism gig was planned at the Bahnhofstraße, Chemnitz in the evening. There was a high risk of clashes particularly with rival protest movements.