Germans stage pro- and anti-refugee rallies at Berlin attack site (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
Hundreds of people took to the streets of the German capital to join two rival rallies held near the site at which a truck plowed into a Christmas market. The attack claimed the lives of 12 people and left 48 injured.
Both demonstrations, one of which was staged by a far-right group and the other one by leftists, were partially dedicated to honoring the memory of the victims of Monday’s attack. Both events were held at the Hardenberg Square not far from the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church located near the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market that was targeted.
One demonstration was staged by a far-right activist group “Berlin defends itself – together against abuse by asylum seekers” under the slogan “close the borders – Merkel’s hands are covered in blood”.
About 130 people, including some members of the ultranationalist German National Democratic Party (NPD), attended the rally, according to DPA. The far-right protesters were chanting anti-refugee slogans and waving German national flags as well as flags frequently used by neo-Nazis.
"Solidarity Against Hate": Germans protest a (much smaller) neo-Nazi rally against immigrants following the #Berlin truck attack. pic.twitter.com/9sy46GAOzd— Matt Bradley (@MattMcBradley) December 21, 2016
At the same time, about 800 people gathered at another part of Hardenberg Square for a counter-protest organized by the association of “Berlin’s unions against the Right”. The left-wing demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the “instrumentalization” of the Monday attack by right-wing groups as well as against “racism” and “hatred”.
Tonight in Berlin. 800 protest against racism & Nazi groups. In solidarity with victims of attack and refugees and immigrants. pic.twitter.com/EpTHo4zuZO— Heike Becker (@HeikeBecker14) December 21, 2016
The counter-protesters were holding placards with red hearts painted on them and with slogans that read “solidarity against hatred”, “solidarity, tolerance, love” and “love for everyone.”
Meanwhile, some 200 people came to the Berlin office of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party to protest against her open door policy. The action was organized by the Identitarian Movement, a pan-European right-wing populist group often described as racist and Islamophobic.
The protesters promised to stay near the office until a high-ranking CDU official emerged to talk to them, even if it meant staying all night. They also issued a set of demands published on their Facebook page. The demands include the closure of the German borders, deportation of illegal migrants as well as all refugees, who committed any crimes in Germany, and introducing measures to stop the “Islamization of Germany”.
Protest vor der CDU#berlin merkel muss weg! pic.twitter.com/WbetW8WguZ— Martin Sellner (@Martin_Sellner) December 21, 2016
The event organized by the Identitarian Movement was also attended by some members of the German right-wing Alternative for Germany party, according to DPA.
All rallies were peaceful, German police said.
The demonstrations were held two days after the attack on the Christmas market in Berlin that claimed lives of 12 people and left 48 injured. The tragedy provoked a wave of criticism in the social media directed against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy as many Germans took to Twitter to accuse her of putting Germany and the whole of Europe in danger.
READ MORE: Merkel lambasted online over immigration policies in wake of Berlin terrorist attack
Some German politicians also voiced their discontent with the Chancellor’s policies. Horst Seehofer, Bavarian prime minister and ally of Merkel, called for a radical review of the Germany’s policy towards migrants and refugees while Saarland’s interior minister, Klaus Bouillon, described the situation in Germany as a “state of war” after the Berlin attack.