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Archive for the ‘Protests in Germany’ Category

10,000 protest in German city against anti-migrant group

October 21, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — German police say about 10,000 people have taken part in a protest against the anti-migrant group PEGIDA in the eastern city of Dresden. Mainstream parties, labor unions and civil society groups staged a march with the slogan “heart not hatred.”

PEGIDA, whose name stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, celebrated its fourth birthday Sunday. German news agency dpa reported that the group held a separate rally in Dresden, attended by about 5,000 people.

German police say anti-coal protester ‘holed up’ in forest

September 15, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — Firefighters pumped fresh air into a makeshift tunnel Saturday beneath an ancient German forest that environmentalists are trying to stop from being chopped down for a coal mine, while protesters nearby engaged in a standoff with police.

Aachen police said at least one person was believed to be holed up underground, and authorities ordered journalists out of the area while they investigated the tunnel system beneath Hambach forest, west of Cologne.

Police spokesman Wolfgang Roethgens said officers earlier removed four protesters who had chained themselves to a facility at the Niederaussem coal-fired power station that is supplied by the nearby lignite strip mine, which is being expanded by utility company RWE. Hundreds of protesters tried to enter the forest but were blocked by police.

Police entered the forest earlier in the week to remove protesters who have been living in the forest for months in an effort to stop the cutting down of the woodland, which is believed to be up to 12,000 years old. By Saturday, officers had cleared 13 of about 50 treehouses in the forest.

Environmental groups argue that Hambach forest should be spared while Germany mulls ending the extraction and burning of coal as part of the country’s effort to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday that a government-appointed commission examining options for the future of Germany’s coal industry is discussing a phase-out of the fossil fuel by 2038. Environmental groups planned to plant saplings between the forest and the mine Sunday.

German government: Chemnitz protesters should shun neo-Nazis

September 03, 2018

CHEMNITZ, Germany (AP) — Germany’s government on Monday urged those aggrieved by the suspected killing of a man by migrants in Chemnitz to distance themselves from far-right extremists who have participated in violent, xenophobic protest marches in the eastern city over the past week.

The fatal stabbing of 35-year-old carpenter Daniel Hillig in the eastern city on Aug. 26 sparked a series of rallies, some of which erupted into violence. Protesters looked on as neo-Nazis performed the stiff-armed ‘Hitler salute,’ chanted “foreigners out” and harassed journalists covering the demonstrations.

“If one doesn’t think this way it would be good to draw a clear line and distance oneself from those who are doing that,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert. He echoed comments by Chemnitz mayor Barbara Ludwig, who told a rally in the city Saturday that people who repeatedly join protests by far-right extremists “strengthen the right-wing, violent scene.”

The tension that has built up over the past week in Chemnitz reflects the growing polarization over Germany’s ongoing efforts to come to terms with an influx of more than 1 million refugees and migrants to the country since 2015.

Authorities said a 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in the Chemnitz killing “If their guilt is proven then they will experience the full force of our laws,” said Seibert.

Thousands of people were expected to attend a free, open-air concert in the city Monday intended to send a signal against hatred and anti-migrant sentiment. The concert, which is being promoted under the #WeAreMore hashtag, is part of an effort by German civil society to position itself against the growing far-right movement in parts of Germany.

Former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tweeted on Monday that “the far-right terror in Chemnitz is not a Saxon problem, it’s a German one.” He harshly criticized the political establishment for being too passive when it comes to fighting far-right groups in Germany and asked them to make a stronger showing in places with simmering discontent and anti-migrant sentiment.

“I think it would be good if as many representatives as possible — not only in Chemnitz but everywhere — go to places where we think the citizens are not agreeing with our state,” he said. But, Gabriel added, there was a clear line between angry citizens and those inciting people with hatred.

“We have to go with toughness after these terrorists,” he said in an interview with Bild Television, adding that “there won’t be any discussions with people who make the Hitler salute. There will only be the rigidity of the state.”

Gabriel called on the domestic intelligence service to start watching the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party, which was voted into national parliament last year. In the past, the nationalist AfD has officially distanced itself from radical far-right groups, but over the weekend it joined ranks for the first time with the more radical Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, and Pro Chemnitz group and marched through the city together with them.

While Germany’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, has said there are no grounds to monitor Alternative for Germany, the state-level intelligence service in the northern city of Bremen said it is putting the party’s youth wing under observation.

Also on Monday, Hillig’s widow spoke out for the first time, saying that, “Daniel would have never wanted” the protests triggered by his killing. “Daniel was neither left nor right,” the widow, identified only as Bianca T., told daily Bild adding that she was shocked by how the far right was exploiting his death. “I looked at the events on Saturday night — this was not about Daniel at all.”

“All we want to do right now is mourn him in peace,” she said.

Grieshaber and Jordans reported from Berlin.

Germany: Saxony governor visits city shaken by protests

August 30, 2018

CHEMNITZ, Germany (AP) — The governor of Germany’s eastern state of Saxony visited Thursday the city where anger over the suspected killing of a man by migrants sparked violent protests. Police were preparing for further demonstrations during the trip to Chemnitz by Governor Michael Kretschmer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At least 18 people were injured Monday when far-right protesters, mobilized from surrounding areas and further afield, clashed with counter-protesters in the city center. The demonstration followed calls on social media to honor a 35-year-old German citizen stabbed to death Sunday in an altercation.

Authorities denied online rumors that the victim had been protecting a woman from harassment, saying there was no evidence this had been the case. Still, the public display of anger and footage showing neo-Nazis hurling abuse and bottles at counter-protesters as police struggled to keep the groups apart raised fresh concerns about the threat posed by far-right extremists in Germany.

Saxony has long been a hotbed of anti-migrant sentiment and is home to the group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, as well as a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which received almost a quarter of the vote in the state last year.

There have been regular attacks against migrants over the years in Saxony, especially since the influx of more than a million refugees to Germany in 2015 and 2016. While the share of foreigners in Saxony remains below the national average, concern among the population about migrants committing crimes is particularly high.

Chemnitz prosecutors said a 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with Sunday’s killing. Adding to pressure on Kretschmer, who faces state elections next year, opposition parties have called for an investigation into alleged collusion between police and far-right extremists after the arrest warrants for the two suspects were leaked on social media.

The incident comes days after a man at a far-right protest was filmed harassing journalists. Police subsequently held the reporters for 45 minutes — ostensibly to check their identities — preventing them from covering the demonstration. It later emerged that the protester was a civilian employee of Saxony’s criminal police department. On Thursday, the state police department said that after talks with the man and his lawyer, the man would resign from his job with the police next week, the German news agency dpa reported.

Green party lawmaker Claudia Roth told news agency dpa that “organized far-right extremists” appeared to be using public anger over the killing for their ends. Footage showing numerous protesters performing the stiff-armed Nazi salute was evidence of their extremist ideology, she said.

Public displays of the salute, the Nazi swastika and other means of glorifying Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist regime are forbidden in Germany and can result in fines or prison sentences. Authorities in Saxony requested the help of federal police to prevent further outbursts of violence in the coming days, including during a planned far-right protest outside a town hall meeting Kretschmer planned to hold with citizens late Thursday.

In a separate incident, police said Thursday that a 20-year-old Syrian man was attacked in the northern city of Wismar by three German-speaking men shouting anti-migrant slurs and had to be hospitalized for his injuries.

Rostock police said the incident late Wednesday was being investigated as a hate crime. The Syrian in Wismar was on his way home alone when he was attacked. Two of the suspects punched him in the face and the third hit him with a chain on the shoulder and ribs area, knocking him to the ground before they fled.

He was released after treatment for a fractured nose and bruises to his face and upper body. The co-leader of Alternative for Germany, which came third in last year’s national elections, said he understood the public anger over the killing of the German man last Sunday.

Alexander Gauland told daily Die Welt in an interview published Wednesday that “when such a killing occurs, it’s normal for people to snap.”

Germany: 6 people injured during violent far-right protest

August 28, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — At least six people have been injured after bottles and fireworks were thrown during a far-right protest in the eastern German city of Chemnitz. German news agency dpa reported Tuesday that Chemnitz police acknowledged having mobilized too few officers for the demonstration Monday night, which erupted into clashes between neo-Nazis and left-wing counter-protesters.

The far-right protest was sparked by the death of a 35-year-old German man Sunday following a violent altercation with several other men. Two other men were injured. A 22-year-old Syrian and a 21 year-old Iraqi have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Footage showed far-right protesters trying to break through police lines on Monday night, performing Nazi salutes and chanting “the national resistance is marching here!”

Cheers, protests as German court lets cities ban diesel cars

February 27, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — Handing environmentalists a landmark victory, a German court ruled Tuesday that cities can ban diesel cars and trucks to combat air pollution, a decision with far-reaching and costly implications in the country where the diesel engine was invented in the 1890s.

The ruling by the Federal Administrative Court stirred fears from motorists, auto dealers and other businesses worried about the financial impact. And Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government scrambled to reassure drivers it would seek to prevent such drastic measures by pushing other ways to reduce urban pollution.

Diesel automobiles are a popular alternative to gasoline-powered ones in Germany, with about 9 million diesel cars and several million trucks, buses and other vehicles affected by the ruling. Overall, 1 in 3 passenger cars in Germany, home to such automakers as Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW, are diesel-powered, though the cleanest, most modern models would probably still be allowed even if cities decided on a ban.

“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” said Juergen Resch, head of the group Environmental Action Germany, which had sued dozens of German cities for failing to meet legally binding emissions limits.

While diesel cars produce less carbon dioxide and tend to get better mileage than gas-powered vehicles, they emit higher levels of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, contributing to respiratory illnesses and 6,000 deaths annually, according to government figures.

Two German states had appealed lower court decisions that suggested bans on particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective. Germany’s highest administrative court rejected that appeal Tuesday, effectively instructing two cities at the center of the case — Stuttgart and Duesseldorf — to consider bans as part of their clean air plans.

What comes next is an open question. It’s not clear whether cities will actually move to ban diesels. And if they do so, it remains to be seen whether automakers will be forced to upgrade exhaust and software systems or buy back vehicles; if the government will offer consumers incentives; or if owners will be left on their own, forced to bear the costs.

The Leipzig-based administrative court said cities won’t be required to compensate drivers for being unable to use their diesel cars. Speaking on behalf of automakers, Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, stressed that the government could ease the uncertainty by not leaving it to cities to decide on a case-by-case basis.

“We hope it comes to sensible national regulations,” he said. European cities considering diesel bans like Copenhagen and Paris will be watching how the situation plays out in Germany as they make their own decisions.

Jeff Schuster, an analyst with the consulting firm LMC Automotive near Detroit, said diesel bans could spread to other polluted European cities. But he said the market in Europe, China and elsewhere was already headed in that direction because of the big push toward electric vehicles and the damage done by the Volkswagen diesel-emissions cheating scandal.

Diesels make up a smaller part of the American auto market, and so any bans in Europe would have little effect on the U.S., Schuster said. For the past two years in the U.S., only 2.7 percent of registered vehicles were diesel, according to Kelley Blue Book.

New diesel car sales in Germany were already declining in anticipation of the decision, and also because of the VW scandal. Used-car dealers fretted about what the ruling will mean for the vehicles on their lots.

“The prices as well as the demand are going down rapidly,” said Marcel del Arbol, owner of R&M used car dealership in Frankfurt. “What happened today will bring the prices down even more. German car companies dipped on the stock market following the ruling but mostly recovered, with Volkswagen down 0.9 percent at the end of the day, BMW down 0.06 percent and Daimler up 0.2 percent.

Analysts said the ruling might actually prove to be a boon for the economy if drivers choose to upgrade their engines or buy new models. Merkel sought to downplay the prospect of widespread diesel driving bans, suggesting that many of the 70 German cities that regularly exceed pollution limits might be able to cut harmful emissions with other measures such as software upgrades in vehicles and converting bus and taxi fleets to electric power.

Experts, however, questioned whether bans can be avoided and accused the German government of ignoring the health problems caused by diesel for too long. Fritz Kuhn, the Green Party mayor of Stuttgart, home to automakers Daimler and Porsche, accused the government of leaving it to cities to clean up the mess by failing to provide a nationwide solution.

Political leaders stressed that diesel owners shouldn’t have to shoulder the full burden of a ban. “The auto industry that caused the harmful emissions has to upgrade diesel engines at its expense,” said Kai Wegner, a lawmaker who speaks for Merkel’s party on urban issues.

The ruling alarmed groups representing small and medium-size companies. Diesels — first developed by Rudolf Diesel in Augsburg over a century ago — are a mainstay of many company fleets and are widely used by taxi companies and delivery services.

Berlin’s Chamber of Commerce said companies in the capital would have to spend 240 million euros ($295 million) to replace their fleets if diesel cars were banned — enough to drive many out of business.

Associated Press writers Kerstin Sopke in Leipzig, Christoph Noelting in Frankfurt and Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

G-20 leaders set to face huge protests at Hamburg summit

July 05, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — President Donald Trump was met with thousands of protesters when he arrived at meetings in Brussels in May. But with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joining him at the Group of 20 meetings in Germany this week, he likely won’t even be at the top of the list for demonstrators.

Add India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders whose controversial policies have sparked unrest, mix in the cauldron that is Hamburg — the summit venue is only about a kilometer (less than a mile) from the country’s most notorious hotbed of left-wing protest — and the brew could prove explosive.

“G-20: Welcome to Hell” is the slogan anti-globalization activists registered for their protests on July 6, when Trump and other leaders arrive for the July 7-8 summit in the northern port city. “We are calling on the world to make Hamburg a focal point of the resistance against the old and new capitalist authorities,” said the organizers, who have ties to the Rote Flora squat, a center for radical leftists where police have clashed frequently with protesters. The site is a short walk from where the leaders will be meeting.

Already in the weeks ahead of the summit, in incidents believed linked to the meeting, police cars have been burned, train lines have been sabotaged and authorities in Hamburg and the nearby city of Rostock have confiscated improvised weapons like fire-extinguishers filled with flammable liquid, material to build gasoline bombs, baseball bats and other items in several raids.

“We have to assume that this is only a tiny percentage of what is still in basements and garages in and around Hamburg,” Hamburg police criminal director Jan Hieber told reporters this week. In a preview of things to come, police clashed Tuesday night in Hamburg with hundreds of protesters, using pepper spray and water cannons to eventually bring the crowd under control.

The “Welcome to Hell” demonstration is just one of dozens of protests that have been registered under a smorgasbord of themes — including a far-right pro-Trump rally — with more than 100,000 demonstrators from across Europe and beyond taking part.

Officials expect some 8,000 protesters from Europe’s violent left-wing scene, and have been tracking known activists coming in from Scandinavia, Switzerland, Italy and elsewhere, said Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer.

“This isn’t about sit-ins,” Meyer said. That’s not to say all protesters are violent — most aren’t and see the gathering of as an opportunity to highlight their messages with the world watching, and with the hope the leaders gathering inside Hamburg’s congress will listen.

Greenpeace, for example, sees the G-20 as an opportunity for leaders to send a strong signal about their determination to fight climate change — despite the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

“We’re looking for the G-20, and if that’s not possible, then the G-19, to go forward with implementing the Paris agreement and maybe doing even more,” Greenpeace International’s executive director Jennifer Morgan told The Associated Press.

Like many nonprofits, Greenpeace is fighting against a security decision to block off a 38-square-kilometer (almost 15-square-mile) “no protest zone” encompassing the airport where leaders will arrive and the conference center where they will meet.

The group is also calling for residents who live within the security zone to hang flags and banners out of their windows so that leaders will see them on the way in. “Greenpeace stands for nonviolent direct action — we have peace in our name — and it would be a shame if violence moved the message away from what the G-20 should be doing on climate and other issues,” Morgan said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told community organizers in Hamburg that she understood the importance of demonstrations to express criticism and concerns, but urged that they remain non-violent.

“It should be peaceful criticism,” she said in June. Still, German security officials are preparing for the worst, drawing upon decades of experience dealing with violent May Day demonstrations and other protests at major events, including the G-7 in 2015 and G-8 in 2007.

In addition to the no-protest zone, tightly-secured transit corridors are set up to ensure that convoys will be able to keep moving lest they become a target for violent demonstrators or terrorists if they are stopped.

Germany has also denied Erdogan permission to hold a rally on the sidelines of the summit, which could have drawn huge protests from Kurds living in Germany. Hamburg is boosting its police force with reinforcements from around the country and will have 20,000 officers on hand to patrol the city’s streets, skies and waterways.

“You can be certain that you will see all of the equipment that German police have here in Hamburg,” said Hartmude Dudde, who is leading the security team for Hamburg police. That includes both underwater and aerial drones.

They are 220 officers shorter than planned, however, after Hamburg sent home a Berlin contingent for partying excessively at their barracks, with police officers allegedly urinating on a fence and an officer dressed in a bathrobe dancing on a table with a weapon in her hand.

Of those who are on hand, Germany’s counter-terrorist GSG9 force will be assisted by Austria’s counterpart Cobra and specialists from the Netherlands and other countries, Meyer said. They’ll be stationed around the city in strategic locations to help protect the summit’s expected 6,500 participants from any attack.

“You can count on a very quick reaction time,” Meyer told reporters. “Well under a minute, that’s the concept. They are, in principle, everywhere.” Demonstrations need to be registered with authorities in Germany before going ahead — otherwise they’re considered illegal and can be immediately broken up. That means that police can be expected to react swiftly to any “spontaneous” protests inside the security zone closer to where the world leaders are meeting.

On the outskirts of the city, a former wholesale supermarket has been converted into a special temporary prison with holding cells for 400 people, and judges on hand to decide whether there’s enough evidence to keep them longer term or to set them free.

“Peaceful protest is welcome in our democracy… but violent protest will be stopped,” Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said this week. “This event will not be disturbed, of that I am certain.”

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