Joseph Nasr and Matthias Inverardi, Reuters, January 9, 2016
Riot police broke up far-right protesters in Cologne on Saturday as they marched against Germany’s open-door migration policy after asylum seekers were identified as suspects in assaults on women on New Year’s Eve.
Police said around 1,700 people attended the rally organized by the far-right anti-Islam PEGIDA movement, which has seized on the alleged involvement of migrants in the Cologne attacks as proof Merkel’s policy is flawed.
Demonstrators, some of whom bore tattoos with far-right symbols such as a skull in a German soldier’s helmet, had chanted “Merkel must go” and “this is the march of the national resistance”. “Rapefugees not welcome,” one banner read.
A police spokesman said roughly half of those at the PEGIDA protest were from the ‘hooligan scene’. Some in the crowd threw bottles and fire crackers at officers, and riot police used water canon to disperse the protesters.
Two people were injured in the clash, and police detained a number of demonstrators, a Reuters witness said.
In all, about 1,700 police officers were on the streets of Cologne, dwarfing the number on duty during the chaotic scenes of New Year’s Eve when at least 120 women were robbed or sexually molested.
“The events on New Year’s Eve led to a lot of emotion,” said a police spokesman. “We had feared that emotions would boil over.”
Earlier in the week, German federal police said they had identified 32 people who were suspected of playing a role in the attacks on women on Cologne, 22 of whom were in the process of seeking asylum in Germany.