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400 German protesters shouting ‘refugees can stay, Nazis must go’ arrested

Police have detained about 400 leftists who were protesting against the national convention of the populist Alternative for Germany party in Stuttgart

Published: Updated:

Police have detained about 400 leftists who were protesting against the national convention of the populist Alternative for Germany party in Stuttgart.

German news agency dpa reported that protesters were shouting “refugees can stay, Nazis must go,” as some 2,000 party members arrived at the convention center on Saturday morning.

Protesters temporarily blocked a nearby highway and burned tires on another road leading to the convention center. Some 1,000 police officers were on the scene to prevent violent clashes between far right party members and demonstrators.

Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has been growing in political influence as it campaigns on an anti-refugee and anti-Islam platform.
Now polling around 14 percent, AfD is eyeing entry into the federal parliament in elections next year after a string of state election wins.

The AfD was formed only three years ago and has since gradually shifted its policies to the right, while entering half of Germany’s 16 state legislatures and the European parliament.

Having initially railed against bailouts for debt-hit eurozone economies, it has changed focus to protest against mostly-Muslim migrants and refugees, more than a million of whom sought asylum in Germany last year.

The AfD has loudly protested against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal migration policy but also channelled popular anger against established political parties and the mainstream press.

Around 2,400 members are expected at the weekend congress, which comes after AfD deputy leader and European parliament member Beatrix von Storch last week caused anger by labelling Islam a “political ideology that is incompatible with the German constitution”.

Von Storch said the congress would call for a ban on Islamic symbols in Germany such as minarets on mosques, the call to prayer and full-face veils for women.

It will openly challenge the government position, repeatedly stated by Merkel, that today “Islam is part of Germany”, a country that is home to some four million Muslims.

(With AP and AFP)