Fake News Spurred Neo-Nazi Riots in Germany’s Chemnitz, Saxony Officials Say
The outburst of far-right and neo-Nazi street demonstrations in the East German city of Chemnitz coupled with clashes with leftists and the police have been fueled by fake news spread online, and especially through social media, according to local officials.
About a dozen men are being wanted by the German authorities for giving the forbidden Nazi salute “Heil Hitler” during the demonstrations in the third largest city of the state of Saxony, DW reports.
All symbols, images, slogans, uniforms, songs and salutes that glorify the 1933-45 Nazi regime are banned in Germany, including the extended right arm salute associated with the personality cult surrounding Adolf Hitler.
It resulted in the death of a German man later revealed to be of Cuban descent who was said to have intervened after a woman was repeatedly sexually harassed by migrants. That claim was later declared to be false by the Chemnitz police.
Two other men were left with stabbing wounds in the skirmish early Sunday morning, and two suspects, a 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian, remain in custody.
A spontaneous far-right rally in Chemnitz surprised the local police on Sunday night, and on Monday, neo-Nazis clashed with a smaller counter-rally of leftists
“We have to acknowledge that mobilization [of the far-rightists] on the Internet was stronger than in the past,” said Michael Kretschmer, state premier of Saxony.
“[The rage of the demonstrators] was based on xenophobic comments, false information and conspiracy theories … it was based on fake news,” he stated.
The Chemnitz police has made it clear that the man who was murdered was actually stabbed during a brawl between two groups of men.
Monday’s clashes of the rallies provoked by the stabbing incident included some 6,000 right-wing protesters and around 1,000 counter-protesters.
Two police officers, nine far-right protesters and nine counter-protesters were injured in the clashes, the police revealed.
Saxony’s Interior Minister Roland Woeller said that right-wing groups had colluded with members of football hooligan groups from across Germany, with many from West Germany traveling to Chemnitz for the anti-immigrant demonstration.
On Monday night, a police spokesman admitted that the 591 police officers deployed in Chemnitz were enough to separate the antagonistic rallies.
According to Oliver Malchow, head of the police union GdP, thousands of police staff cuts in recent years were responsible for the lack of control over right-wing violence.
“The state has failed when is comes to domestic security because it massively reduced staff numbers,” Malchow told German newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung,
He pointed to a growing trend of vigilantism in Germany, and added that 20,000 new police positions were required to remedy the situation.
“When the state is perceived as no longer able to protect citizens, citizens take the law into their own hands and start to rely on self-defense militias and vigilantism,” Malchow declared.
(Banner image: TV grab from YouTube)