German police arrest hundreds after anti-migrant protest
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German police on Tuesday said more than 200 people were arrested after masked right-wing supporters went on a rampage Monday night at an anti-Islamisation rally in the eastern city of Leipzig.
The extremists, who are known to police as football hooligans, are suspected of going on a rampage during a march by supporters of the anti-migrant Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) movement.
Monday night’s march in Leipzig was organised by the local branch of the Pegida movement, known as Legida.
The peaceful demonstration was a protest against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy for refugees.
German police said a group of right-wing extremists and football hooligans went on a rampage as the march proceeded in the largely left-wing Leipzig district of Connewitz.
Leading German news site Spiegel Online published pictures of destruction in the neighbourhood, including a kebab shop with a smashed window.
Emotions are running high in German cities after gangs of young migrant men sexually assaulted women at New Year's Eve celebrations in mass attacks in Cologne and other towns.
The attacks have deepened public scepticism towards Merkel's refugee policy and her mantra that Germany can cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the country last year. It has also fuelled right-wing groups.
‘Merkel, take your Muslims with you…’
As roughly 2,000 anti-Muslim Legida supporters marched peacefully in the city centre, police said a separate group of 211 people walked through Connewitz district before setting off fireworks, erecting barricades and vandalising property. The top floor of one building caught fire.
The group carried a placard reading "Leipzig bleibt Helle", or "Leipzig stays light", an apparent reference to the skin colour of residents.
"The 211 people were to a not insignificant degree already on record as being right-wing sympathisers and or members of violent sporting groups," said police, adding officers brought the situation under control relatively quickly.
Self-styled German soccer 'hooligans' tend to join right-wing groups on marches, sometimes starting fights.
The police put the right-wingers in a bus which was then attacked by left-wing supporters.
At the Legida protest, people shouted "Merkel must go" and held placards showing the chancellor in a Muslim veil and reading "Merkel, take your Muslims with you and get lost".
With the number of migrants arriving in Europe's biggest economy set to rise further this year, Merkel is under growing pressure to toughen her line on refugees.
An INSA poll in the German daily, Bild, put support for Merkel's conservative bloc down 1 point at 35 percent, with the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has strongly criticised the Merkel's refugee policy, up 2 points at 11.5 percent.
INSA traditionally puts AfD slightly higher than most other polling institutes.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)