Berlin protesters clash with police near anti-refugee rally

Anti-refugee protests in Berlin attract 5,000 as police forces scuffle with counter-demonstrators

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A counter-protester opposing the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is cared for by comrades after being pepper-sprayed by police during a demonstration by AfD supporters in Berlin on November 7, 2015.

Hundreds of activists clashed with police on Saturday, as they took to the streets of Berlin to shout down thousands of anti-refugee protesters demonstrating against Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy regarding the refugees.

An officer was lightly injured while more than 40 protesters were arrested, according to the police.

The clashes erupted after police succeeded in breaking up a sit-in by protesters, after some tried to break through the barriers separating them from the anti-refugee demonstration, leading the police to resort to the use of batons, AFP reported.

Police forces reported that almost 5,000 people participated in the main anti-refugee protest, which was held by right-wing populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with the headline “Asylum Has Its Limits -- Red Card for Merkel".

"We are demonstrating against the asylum chaos caused by Angela Merkel," AfD member and European Parliament deputy Beatrix von Storch said during the rally.

Participants waved German flags and chanted "Merkel must go" and "Traitor to the people," Storch added.

A group of 40 Neo-Nazis participated in the rally along with the AfD activists, local press reported.

A supporter of the AfD party displays a placard showing German Chancellor Angela Merkel dressed in a Burqa during a demonstration against German's asylum policy in Berlin on November 7, 2015.

A total of 800 to 1,100 people made up the five counter-rallies, although organisers had expected several thousand people to participate, under the slogan, “Nazis, go away!”

In addition, at least 1,100 police officers were deployed at the scene in the capital to prevent brawling between the opposing parties.

AfD Deputy Party President Alexander Gauland, compared the current influx of refugees entering Europe with the invasion of the Western Roman Empire by barbarians, which resulted in its destruction.

Merkel is facing heavy repercussions over her embracing move towards refugees escaping war and persecution, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and other countries.

Germany has already accepted nearly 500,000 asylum seeker applications this year and is expected to admit a total of 800,000 to one million refugees by the end of the year, with the Syrians making up the biggest single group arriving.

Counter-protesters opposing the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party try to block a demonstration by AfD supporters in Berlin on November 7, 2015.

‘Subsidiary protection’

On Saturday, Germany's vice chancellor stated that he has considered a proposal made by the Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, which is to provide many Syrians a restricted asylum status.

Proposal which was later postponed, indicating that de Maiziere doesn't want to spark a new round of political infighting over the proposed item.

De Maiziere said in a statement on Friday that certain Syrians who don’t present evidence of individual persecution, but seem to flee the conflict in general should receive “subsidiary protection;” which provides only a one-year renewable residence permit and wouldn't give them the ability to bring their relatives to Germany for a period of two years. Opposed to full asylum status, that comes with a three-year residence permit and enables recipients to bring family members.

However hours later, he suspended the idea, explaining that the country’s refugee policies will remain unchanged for the time being.

De Maiziere was heavily criticized by members of Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's centre-left Social Democrats.

Gabriel stated that the proposal appeared to have been produced at the Interior Ministry “without consultation, and it is smart that it was taken back again.”

De Maiziere announced his idea just a day after leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition ended weeks of disagreement on how to quickly handle the processing of the people, who have little hope of asylum, such as those from Balkan countries.

They agreed to establish new processing centres and stated that asylum seekers with “subsidiary protection” will not be able to bring relatives for two years, something that was believed to apply only to a few number of people.

However, the Christian Social Union (CSU) - a branch of Merkel's conservative bloc - suggested that the situation may fester.

“Nothing is off the table for the CSU,” General Secretary Andreas Scheuer said in a statement.

“Thomas de Maiziere is right when he says that Syrian civil war refugees should get a different status,” Scheuer added.

TRTWorld and agencies