Amid protests over the death, right-wing mobs hunted and attacked foreigners, injuring several people. At least six others were injured Monday after far-right groups, neo-Nazis and left-wing protesters clashed in the city, using fireworks and glass bottles as weapons.
Authorities said Tuesday that they were investigating 10 protesters accused of giving the “Hitler salute,” which is banned in Germany.
In the federal state of Saxony — where Chemnitz is located — the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ranks second in the polls, with Merkel’s governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) only five percentage points ahead. Whereas Merkel’s initially welcoming stance toward refugees did not significantly hurt the CDU’s ratings in many western German federal states with higher migrant populations, Saxony’s far-right position has been more successful in capitalizing on immigration fears.
Researchers think the strong performance of right-wing populists and the deep entrenchment of neo-Nazi groups in the state are linked to xenophobic violence, even though the AfD’s leadership has distanced itself from the weekend incidents. Saxony has been among the German states with the most violent attacks on refugees and other foreigners for years, with almost 100 incidents last year, according to state security services.
The AfD again was accused of helping to incite the violence Monday after one of its lawmakers tweeted that “people will go on the streets and protect themselves” if authorities fail to do so.
As local officials struggled to explain why authorities had failed to prevent the violence for the second day in a row, the German government issued a sharp condemnation from Berlin.
“There’s no place in our country under the rule of law for such riotous assemblies, the hunting down of people [who appear to be from different ethnic backgrounds] or the attempt to spread hate in the streets,” said Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman.
Saxony’s conservative minister-president, Michael Kretschmer, defended regional authorities Tuesday but also decried the far-right, calling its “political exploitation” of the 35-year-old’s killing “disgusting.”
German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas linked the incidents in eastern Germany with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech exactly 55 years ago. “As long as radicals stage hunts, we have a long way to go to make the dream of equal rights come true,” said Maas, a member of the Social Democratic Party.