The East German city of Chemnitz has so far seen two days of street protests after a man stabbed allegedly by two Middle Eastern migrants died in the hospital.
Daniel Hillig, a 35-year-old married German-Cuban, was stabbed early in the morning on Sunday after the conclusion of a street festival. The altercation, which supposedly occurred by a cashpoint, reportedly left two other men in their 30s hospitalized with stab wounds, and resulted in the arrest of a 22-year-old Syrian and a 23-year-old Iraqi.
Hillig is reported to have supported leftist causes on social media, including the violent Communist group Antifa.
Regardless, the event proved a tipping point for thousands of concerned and angry right-wing citizens, who took to the streets in protests which, rather than abating, only grew stronger by the second day, catching police unprepared. Originally organized by a local ‘far right’ football club, the demonstrations, reported to be overwhelmingly male, included members of the mainstream nationalist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party, the nationalist anti-Islam movement PEGIDA, and the far-right NPD.
Protestors carried German flags, signs that read “Stop the Refugee Flood” and “Defend Europe,” and chanted slogans including “we are the people,” “this is our city,” “Germany for the Germans,” “foreigners out,” and “lying press.” A few gave the illegal Roman salute. Some reportedly chased suspected foreigners, and clashed with police and left-wing counter-protestors, who yelled and carried signs against “Nazis” and “Nazi propaganda.” A total of 20 people were injured.
The demonstrations received near universal condemnation from Germany’s political and media classes, including outlets such as The Local Germany and Spiegel Online, which called it “reminiscent of the situation during the Weimar Republic.” The protests were condemned by Chemnitz’ mayor; the Saxony state premier; Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert “in the strongest possible terms,” adding that “vigilante justice” cannot be tolerated; and Merkel herself, who stated that they have “no place in a constitutional democracy.”
Meanwhile, AfD MP Markus Frohnmaier observed on twitter that “If the state can no longer protect the citizen, then people will go on the streets and protect themselves.” The AfD received almost a quarter of the vote in Chemnitz last year, and has become the main opposition party in the German parliament, building its support on the failure of Merkel’s policies, which included allowing in over a million migrants since 2015, and allowing the German state to crack down on patriotism and speech critical of Islam and immigration, and cover up crimes by foreigners.