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  • Security has been increased in Cottbus, where the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany won last year's elections over Merkel's conservative coalition.

    Security has been increased in Cottbus, where the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany won last year's elections over Merkel's conservative coalition. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 February 2018
Opinion

Security has been increased in Cottbus, where the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) won last year's elections over Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative coalition.

Arab refugees and Germans carrying pro-immigrant and anti-fascism placards have taken to the streets in Cottbus, Germany, to protest what they say are far-right groups attempting to ratchet up tension in the city after two knife attacks by Syrian teenagers.

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"Some people made mistakes, but not everyone should pay the price for it," said Ahmad al-Barqouni, a 28-year-old Syrian student. Marching with about 1,500 other people through the city, he said: "We want to stop this hate between Germans and Arab refugees."

Lea Bunke, a 25-year-old German student, defended the protesters: "We are here to make a clear stance against a rightist hate campaign," he said, adding that it was unfair to suggest all refugees should leave the city.

Hours later, members of several far-right groups wielding anti-Islam posters also marched through the streets to protest what they claim to be a wave of crime committed by immigrants.

"Merkel, go home!" shouted some 3,000 protesters congregated in the city square. "We are the people! Lying press!"

"The media have been misrepresenting us," said Hans-Christoph Berndt, leader of Zukunft Heimat ("Future Homeland"), an umbrella group organizing anti-immigrant protests.

"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."

Earlier this week, police detained six members of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) who were handing out tear gas and flyers to Cottbus residents. Last year, Germany's Constitutional Court declared that the group resembled Adolf Hitler's Nazi party.

Security has since been increased in the city of 100,000 residents, where the anti-immigrant AfD won elections over Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative coalition last year. Disgruntled supporters cast their votes in favor of AfD after her decision in 2015 to allow more than one million asylum seekers into the country.

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