Ru­mours fu­elled far-right protest

Of­fi­cials de­bunk myth that ha­rass­ment by mi­grants led to fa­tal stab­bing

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - FRANK JORDANS

BER­LIN — Far-right pro­test­ers in Chemnitz, one giv­ing the stif­farmed Nazi salute, hoisted a large ban­ner show­ing blood­ied women’s faces on Mon­day, above the words “we’re colour­ful un­til the blood flows.”

The mes­sage to the bois­ter­ous crowd was clear: this is what mi­grants will do to you wives, sis­ters and daugh­ters.

But the women pic­tured were ac­tu­ally vic­tims of un­re­lated vi­o­lent crimes, in other coun­tries.

Mean­while, on Face­book and Twit­ter, posts praised the Ger­man vic­tim of a fa­tal stab­bing that had hap­pened a day ear­lier in the same city, claim­ing he was pro­tect­ing a woman from mi­grants who were ha­rass­ing her.

But of­fi­cials say the dis­pute stemmed from a ver­bal al­ter­ca­tion be­tween two groups, and ha­rass­ment of a woman wasn’t part of it.

Within hours of the Sun­day killing, ru­mours were spread­ing on so­cial me­dia, spark­ing spon­ta­neous protests in the city and draw­ing thou­sands more to the streets the fol­low­ing night, when the ban­ner was held aloft.

While sus­pected crimes by mi­grants reg­u­larly draw at­ten­tion in Ger­many, a coun­try still grap­pling with an in­flux of refugees three years ago, the speed with which far-right ex­trem­ists flocked to Chemnitz caught au­thor­i­ties by sur­prise.

Anti-mi­grant sen­ti­ment in Sax­ony, the east­ern state where Chemnitz is lo­cated, is high, with about a quar­ter of vot­ers back­ing the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party in last year’s elec­tion.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests many of those who came were in­spired by false in­for­ma­tion and the de­lib­er­ate mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of facts.

“There is ab­so­lutely no ev­i­dence that ha­rass­ment was a rea­son for this dis­pute,” a spokesper­son for Chemnitz prose­cu­tors, In­grid Burghart, told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day.

Claims that the vic­tim was pro­tect­ing a woman from ha­rass­ment spread be­yond so­cial me­dia, and were picked up out­side Ger­many — in­clud­ing by Rus­sian news chan­nel NTV.

Two years ago, Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter and the coun­try’s state me­dia claimed a 13-year-old girl of Rus­sian ori­gin known as “Lisa” had been ab­ducted and raped in Ger­many, prompt­ing street protests in Ber­lin.

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties later de­ter­mined the girl made up the kid­nap­ping story and had run away, and cited the false claims as an ex­am­ple of Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda aimed at desta­bi­liz­ing the Ger­man gov­ern­ment.

Dur­ing Mon­day’s protest in Chemnitz, at least 18 peo­ple were in­jured when far-right ex­trem­ists clashed with coun­ter­demon­stra­tors as po­lice tried to keep the two sides apart.

The vi­o­lence was widely con­demned by Ger­man of­fi­cials and friends of the 35-year-old stab­bing vic­tim.

Po­lice ad­mit­ted be­ing un­pre­pared for the size of the crowds, with neo-Nazi groups from out­side Chemnitz swelling the num­ber of far-right pro­test­ers to 6,000.

“The mo­bi­liza­tion was based on anti-for­eigner com­ment, false in­for­ma­tion and con­spir­acy the­o­ries,” said Michael Kretschmer, the gov­er­nor of Sax­ony.

He, too, told re­porters that “there is no rea­son to be­lieve there was a dis­pute in­volv­ing the pro­tec­tion of a woman and that this is the rea­son for the crime.”

A 22-year-old Syr­ian and a 21-year-old Iraqi were ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of man­slaugh­ter in con­nec­tion with the killing.

Far-right groups have called for fur­ther protests.

JENS MEYER THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Far-right pro­test­ers gather in front of a Karl Marx mon­u­ment in Chemnitz, Ger­many on Mon­day. The ban­ner shows the blood­ied faces of women above the words “We’re colour­ful un­til the blood flows.”

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