Water cannons & tear gas deployed in Leipzig, as neo-Nazi demo sparks massive counter rallies

Police officers stand in front of burning waste containers clashes with counter demonstrators who protests against a rally of anti-immigrant group Die Rechte (The Right) (unseen) on December 12, 2015 in Leipzig, eastern Germany © Sebastian Willnow
Police have deployed tears gas and water cannon in the German city of Leipzig against crowds of protesters who had been holding a counter rally to a neo-Nazi march. Almost 70 officers were injured as the crowd hurled stones, bottles and fireworks at them.

About 150 members of different far-right organizations marched through the southern part of Leipzig. They included the neo-Nazi party Die Rechte (the Right), xenophobic organization Offensive für Deutschland (OfD) (Offensive for Germany), and a division of the PEGIDA movement called Thugida.

The right-wing march faced large-scale opposition as about a dozen counter-protests organized by different movements and leftist groups were staged in the city, Der Spiegel reports citing local authorities. Thousands of demonstrators joined the counter protests, according to police sources.

Police mobilized about 800 officers to keep control of the situation.

Law enforcers managed to separate the right-wing march and the counter protests, although “massive clashes” broke out between police and the counter protesters.

“Some protesters from a group of about 1,000 people attacked police officers deployed to the scene [in the southern part of the city],”police officials said in a twitter post.

Masked men who took part in the counter protests threw stones, bottles and pyrotechnics at police officers forcing them to respond with tear gas, smoke grenades and water cannons, Der Spiegel reports.

Some counter protesters erected barricades on a number of streets and attempted a sit-down demo. Police cleared the protesters after they failed to comply with requests to quit the scene.

On some other streets, counter-protesters erected barricades from wood and trash containers and then set them on fire. They also overturned glass containers, broke shop-windows and demolished a bus stop.

The counter-protesters even attacked a contingent of firefighters deployed to deal with the burning barricades.

Meanwhile, a producer from RT’s Ruptly video agency was attacked by police during one of the massive clashes between law enforcement services and counter-protesters.

“Police acted in a very violent and unnecessary way against one or two protesters. A protester was already on the ground and there were still four or five riot police officers banging their batons on him, [while] he seemed unconscious,” said the producer, who wanted to keep their identity concealed for security reasons.

“I tried to film it and two or three riot police officers came running towards me and pushed my camera away. Then [another] guy punched me in the face,” the producer added.

The right-wing demonstration ended peacefully about 4:00pm local time (3:00pm GMT). However, the clashes between police and counter-protesters continued. About 5:00pm local time (4:00pm GMT), police had to disperse the crowd of demonstrators at the crossing between Karl Liebknecht and Kurt Eisner streets “actively using water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray.” Many police officers as well as many protesters were injured in the incident, Leipziger Folkerszeitung reports.

Police said there is a "threatening atmosphere," and a "strong potential for violence" in the city of about 550,000 residents.

Following the mass riots, city police said that 69 officers had been injured. At least 50 service vehicles were damaged, with four left no longer roadworthy. Police took 23 people into custody.

Jung Burkhard, the mayor of Leipzig, denounced the clashes that took place during the demonstrations and said he was “shocked” by these incidents.

“These outbreaks of violence [provoked] by anarchists… are shocking. These are actions of reckless criminals. This is open street terror. Numerous injuries to police officers… were deliberately inflicted. Aggressive criminals disguised as anti-fascists attacked the city [of Leipzig],” he said commenting on Saturday incidents.

In his speech, Burkhard also expressed his gratitude to police officers, “who had to put their heads on the block once again.”

Earlier on Saturday, an unknown person or people started fires in many locations in Leipzig, an office of the regional lawmaker Marco Bohme from Die Linke (the Left) party was also attacked with unidentified individuals smashing the office’s windows.

However, no connection between this incident and the rallies has been established yet.