Scuffles, extra police deployed in Berlin as thousands rally for & against Merkel's policy (VIDEO)
Several simultaneous mass demonstrations are taking place in the German capital, as people have taken to the streets to express their attitudes to Chancellor Angela Merkel's policy, particular in relation to the EU's refugee crisis.
Far-right groups have gathered in the center of Berlin near the governmental buildings to protest against Merkel's so-called “open door” policies toward migrants and refugees. The rally, held under the slogan "Merkel Must Go," gathered around 1,000 people by Saturday afternoon, TASS reported, citing police.
"I am here for my family, for my culture, our identity, heritage and our future," one protester told RT, while another added that they are "not racists," but "patriots."
"We are here to get back our rights. We are Europeans, if we give away our countries, where are we going to go?" a woman at the rally said.
Signs reading "No Islam on German soil" could be seen at the march, with protesters carrying German flags and calling for the Chancellor to step down. They also demanded reintroduction of border controls in the EU. Ahead of the demonstration, some 5,000 people had been registered for the event, Deutsche Welle reported.
A "Nazi-free" march was also held in Berlin on Saturday, having reportedly accumulated some 3,500 participants from an anti-fascist alliance. A separate rally organized by local churches drew supporters of religious tolerance.
Groups of opposing protesters have attempted to break police barriers separating them, TASS reported, adding that tear gas has been deployed by police. Around 1,700 officers have been keeping watch over the demonstrators.
Up to 13 police officers have been injured in scuffles with protesters, and more than 40 demonstrators have been briefly detained, RIA Novosti reported, citing Berlin police.
Earlier this week, Angela Merkel warned that the EU is on the brink of sliding into "nationalism" if it fails to secure its external borders against the wave of people heading to the continent primarily from the Middle East. Last year, more than 1 million immigrants crossed into the EU challenging the border-free Schengen zone.