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The German city of Chemnitz has witnessed intense protests against Chancellor Merkel’s open borders policy over the past week after two migrants were arrested for stabbing a local to death, which has in turn sparked enormous pro-migrant counter-demonstrations as well.
Thousands of people initially turned out to march against what they believe to be their government’s irresponsible position of allowing over one million migrants to enter the country since 2015, which they say has contributed to severe socio-economic tensions all throughout Germany. Although most of the participants were peaceful, middle-class folks, there were expectedly some political extremists who tried to take advantage of these protests in order to cause trouble and promote their racist-supremacist agendas.
The same can also be said for the counter-demonstrators, too. Alarmed by what they interpreted to be a sudden upsurge in far-right support simply because of the fact that migrants were being protested against — notwithstanding that people took to the streets after two of them were suspected of brutally killing a local — they hurried to show the rest of their countrymen, Europe, and the world at large that Germans will push back against what they claimed to be racism, xenophobia, and fascism. As with the anti-migrant protesters, some of the pro-migrant ones were also a bit rowdy and contributed to the riots that broke out over the weekend over this emotional issue.
As can be seen, long-simmering tensions over the migrant question seem to finally be boiling over in the heartland of Europe’s open borders policy and precisely at the time when Chancellor Merkel is politically at her weakest, which makes it all the more interesting that the government declared that it’s going to place the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) opposition party under surveillance because of its supposed anti-constitutional activities in cavorting with neo-Nazis while organizing the latest anti-migrant demonstrations. Proponents of this police action think that the country’s third-largest opposition force is a national security threat, though critics claim that this amounts to a policy of state intimidation against a genuinely popular movement.
One way or another, the clashes in Chemnitz might be shaping up to be a turning point not just for Germany’s open borders policy, but also the state of its democracy in general.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Sonja van den Ende, Dutch political activist who’s been covering the ongoing situation in Chemnitz, Germany; and Thomas Trautzsch, independent political observer located in Jena, Germany.
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