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POST TIME: 4 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Merkel urges Germans to stand up against hate and division
‘These people who march and are prone to violence -- some have also shamelessly shown their closeness to Nazism -- they stand neither for Chemnitz nor for Saxony overall’
AFP

Merkel urges Germans to stand up against hate and division

CHEMNITZ: Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday urged Germans to stand up against the far right's message of hate and division, after the eastern city of Chemnitz was rocked by xenophobic protests, reports AFP.

Scenes of far-right protesters chasing down foreign-looking people in violent demonstrations last week against the fatal stabbing of a man, allegedly by an Iraqi, shocked Germany.

Amid the highly charged atmosphere in Chemnitz, a failed asylum applicant was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail for another fatal stabbing -- in another case also seized on by the far right's anti-immigrant campaign.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said it was understandable that such crimes would provoke sadness and concern among the population.

But the marches by "violence-prone right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis have nothing in the least to do with sadness for a person or with concern for a city's cohesion", he said.

 "These people who march and are prone to violence -- some have also shamelessly shown their closeness to Nazism -- they stand neither for Chemnitz nor for Saxony overall, neither are they 'the people'," said Seibert, referring to a popular "We are the people" chant used by far-right protesters.

"We must make that clear to them," be it through political or legal means, he said.

"Every citizen can also raise his or her voice to clearly show them their attitude against hate, against the attempt to divide this country."

But the criticism of the right-wing extremist protesters was immediately rejected by far-right party AfD.

"An entire state and its people are vilified here in general because there is a distinct and understandable resentment about the circumstances," Joerg Meuthen, AfD co-chief said at a street festival in Bavaria. After a weekend of rival protests in Chemnitz that saw far-right demonstrators vastly outnumber counter-protesters by 8,000 to 3,000, calls have grown for the silent majority to mobilise.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Germans to "get off our sofas and open our mouths" against xenophobia.