Pro-immigration groups in Germany protested Saturday against what they call a move by far-right groups to increase tensions in the city of Cottbus following two knife attacks by Syrian teenagers, Reuters news reported.
Protestors included Arab refugees and Germans with signs and “anti-fascism” placards that claim the far-right’s criticism of the attacks are racially motivated.
“We want to stop this hate between Germans and Arab refugees,” Ahmad al-Barqouni, a 28-year-old Syrian student, told Reuters news. He was marching through the city with around 1,500 other people.
“Some people made mistakes but not everyone should pay the price for it,” he said of the knife attacks.
What about the Germany's policies?
On the opposite side of the issue, the anti-immigrant group Alternative for Germany has drummed up support for its cause by to people angry with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to let more than one million refugees into the country in 2015.
A counter march was also held of “residents and members of far-right groups carrying anti-Islam banners,” Reuters reported. Part of the protest was against rising crime they say migrants are committing.
Reuters described the scene: "More than 3,000 people shouted 'Merkel must go!', 'We are the people!' and 'Lying press!' in a main square before marching peacefully through the city escorted by riot police."
Police increased security in city of about 100,000, located near the eastern Polish border, Reuters reported.
A 16-year-old male was injured by two Syrian teenagers with a knife, and three Syrians under age 17 threatened a German couple with a knife outside a mall in Cottbus, the report states. The attacks prompted a series of demonstrations by residents opposed to more migrants coming to in Cottbus.
Hans-Christoph Berndt, leader of "Zukunft Heimat" or Future Homeland, a group organizing anti-immigrant protests, told Reuters the group opposes the government’s immigration policy — not migrants.
“The media have been misrepresenting us,” Berndt told Reuters. “We are protesting against the decision to welcome everyone. There aren’t enough police, not enough kindergarten places and not enough teachers. We are demanding that Merkel step down.”
Were any arrests made?
On Wednesday, police arrested six members of the far-right National Democratic Party as they were handing out tear gas and flyers to Cottbus residents. Reuters pointed out that Germany’s Constitutional Court last year compared the group Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party.
International students are drawn to Cottbus's technical university, and the influx of "foreigners and refugees" were credited by Reuters as a means to prevent the city's population from "shrinking below 100,000."