Hawzah News Agency (Chemnitz, Germany) - More than 2,000 anti-refugee protesters along with supporters of a far-right movement known as "Pro Chemnitz" staged a rally in the eastern city on Friday.
Outraged by the government’s migration policy, the protesters then gathered in front of the Karl Marx monument in the city center, chanting "We are the people," and "Merkel must leave.”
Meanwhile, counter-protesters consisting of supporters of the left-wing alliance of "Chemnitz Nazifrei" gathered on the opposite side of the city square.
Security forces separated the rival groups to prevent clashes.
Chemnitz has been the scene of protest rallies and sporadic clashes between supporters of anti and pro-refugee groups since the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old German man by a Syrian and an Iraqi suspects on August 26.
The protest rallies in Chemnitz have set off a debate about whether German politicians are being too complacent in the face of growing xenophobia in the Western European country, where many had thought the lessons of Germany’s Nazi history had been learned.
Some in the European country, the ideal destination for most of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, blame German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal policy toward refugees for the rise of far-right groups, including the Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party. The AfD entered German parliament for the first time in an election last year as the third-largest party.
The AfD, the anti-Islam PEGIDA group and the far-right group Pro Chemnitz have already called on their followers to condemn what they view as a rise in crime committed by refugees.
Chancellor Merkel criticized on Thursday the far-right party of using violent protest rallies over the mortal stabbing blamed on refugees to inflame ethnic tension.
The 64-year-old leader also defended her ‘open-door’ refugee policy, saying, “Migration presents us with challenges and here we have problems but also successes.”
Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders in 2015 to asylum-seekers, many of whom were fleeing Western-led wars in Syria and Iraq, has deeply divided the nation and its neighbors.
The crisis set off a rise in nationalist, anti-immigrant sentiments in EU countries like Austria and Italy, where anti-establishment, far-right parties are now in power.