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5 Jun, 2023 11:20

50 police officers injured in Leipzig unrest

The protests erupted after a German court sentenced a left-wing vigilante for attacking suspected neo-Nazis

Far-left protesters clashed with the German police in the eastern city of Leipzig over the weekend in unrest provoked by a recent court ruling that sent a woman known for anti-Nazi activism and her three accomplices to prison.

The disturbances came on Wednesday after a Dresden court sentenced four left-wing militants to prison terms over acts of violence against suspected neo-Nazis. At the center of the case was a 28-year-old student identified as Lina E, the supposed ringleader, who was given five-years detention. The three others received sentences ranging from two years and five months to three years and three months.

To protest the court ruling, local activists announced a march dubbed ‘Day X’. Although banned by the local authorities over safety concerns, the rally still attracted hundreds of protesters, with initial estimates putting the number of participants at 1,500.

The demonstrations started off peacefully but later devolved into violence, with protesters pelting law enforcement officers with stones and bottles. Leipzig police said that the clashes resulted in around 50 officers injured since Friday, adding that an unknown number of protesters were also hurt.

The police also claimed to have encircled around 1,000 protesters while arresting 30 of them. In addition to this, up to 50 people were taken into custody but subsequently released by Sunday noon. The police also launched an investigation into serious breaches of the peace and attacks on police officers.

Videos from the scene show police officers and protesters engaging in fistfights, with some officers also using batons and pepper spray to disperse the activists. Other clips posted on social media depict demonstrators using fireworks, with fires burning on the streets.

Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung condemned the actions of the left-wing protesters, describing them as “crazy delinquents,” while Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser spoke of “senseless violence” spearheaded by “left-wing extremist chaotic people and rioters.” 

However, the German police came under heavy criticism from left-wing politicians, with a member of the local parliament, Albrecht Pallas, accusing it of a “provocative approach,” claiming that it was acting with unnecessary harshness. In addition, two other local MPs, Juliane Nagel and Marco Bohme, stated that banning the assembly in the first place was a “scandalous” move that violated basic rights.

Despite the criticism, Faeser pointed out that “anyone who throws stones, bottles and incendiary devices at police officers must be held accountable,” vowing that the authorities will “keep a close eye” on the situation in the coming days.