Thursday, August 30, 2018

German Xenophobia

The right-wing riots in Chemnitz following the murder of a German national by two Middle-Eastern immigrants was exacerbated by fake news on social media.

Michael Kretschmer, state premier of Saxony, explained the subsequent anger "was based on xenophobic comments, false information and conspiracy theories ... it was based on fake news."

They were partially fueled by the false claim the victim had intervened to protect a woman. Also, internet users were exposed to fake reports that another man had been killed. The claims had been disseminated mainly by right-wing groups and the organizer of the rally Pro Chemnitz on social media but were later declared by police to be false. Police said the 35-year-old man had been stabbed during an altercation between two groups of men, including the suspects. The two suspects have since been remanded in custody and are under investigation for manslaughter.

The editor-in-chief of the Chemnitz daily Freie Presse, Torsten Kleditzsch, told DW,  "When you are disputing a rumor with facts, you are also automatically broadcasting the rumor," he said. "At the end, it's not the denial that sticks, it's the rumor."

Markus Frohnmaier of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) drew criticism for a tweet apparently calling on people to take the law into their own hands.

Saxon Interior Minister Roland W├Âller said right-wing groups had colluded with members of football hooligan groups to mobilize people from across Germany to travel to Chemnitz for the anti-immigrant demonstration.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the stabbing incident had been "abused to take xenophobia and violence onto the streets." 

The protests on Sunday and Monday included attacks on foreigners by right-wing extremists. Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the violence as "mob-like." "We have video footage showing that there were hunts, that there was mob-like behavior, that there was hate on the streets, and that is at odds with the rule of law in our country," Merkel said.

Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that a shocking number of people apparently felt no inhibitions on "hunting down certain groups and calling for vigilante justice." Incidents of this kind had become so common in Saxony, "that we cannot speak of an isolated case," Schuster said.

Prosecutors said that 10 people were under investigation for giving the illegal Nazi salute during the street protests, based on police film taken during the Monday protests.

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