TENSIONS keep escalating in Germany as reports of mob sex assaults on New Year’s Eve are giving way to attacks on foreigners and demands for refugees to leave.
Protesters flooded the streets of the east German city of Leipzig on Monday night, blaming the sex assaults on migrants who have entered the country.
Some chanted “Deport them!” while others waved signs demanding refugees be sent home.
“Rapefugees not welcome,” read a banner, which showed a silhouette of a woman running away from a mob.
Another sign read, “Islam not welcome.”
The rally was organized by a local chapter of the anti-Muslim organization PEGIDA.
Leipzig official Maria Braunsdorf said police surrounded at least 250 right-wing extremists after some local businesses were ransacked. Many of their wore face masks to shield their identity, which is against the law in Germany, she said.
Nearby, counter-demonstrators came out in force to show their support for the refugees. One banner read, “Willkommen in Leipzig” — Welcome to Leipzig.
The anxiety over migrants in Germany heightened after dozens of foreigners were arrested in connection with some of the New Year’s Eve attacks.
Police in the city of Cologne say they’ve filed 516 charges stemming from that night — 40% of which relate to sexual assaults.
They said at least 31 people, most from North African or Middle Eastern countries, have been charged so far in the attacks. Of those, 18 have been identified as asylum seekers.
Other European cities also had a slew of sex crime reports from New Year’s Eve.
After police identified some of the suspects as migrants, several foreigners in Cologne came under attack.
A gang of 20 men attacked at least six Pakistani nationals Sunday, Cologne police said. Two of the victims had to be hospitalized.
Afterward, five men attacked and injured a man of Syrian descent, police said.
Authorities detained two people after the the assaults on the men.
Some of the women who reported being sexually assaulted or robbed by mobs in Cologne described their assailants as having a Arab or North African appearance.
The reported assaults have sparked fierce public debate about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal policies toward migrants and have unleashed a wave of anger over authorities’ response to the attacks.
Merkel has condemned the attacks in Germany as “disgusting, criminal acts.” But she did not back down on her commitment to welcome refugees who obey German laws and pledge to integrate into German society.
Cologne police Chief Wolfgang Albers was fired Friday amid criticism of his department’s handling of the violence.
And Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker has been slammed for advising women to keep “more than an arm’s length” away from unknown men in response to the assaults.
Reker later said her comments had been taken out of context. – CNN