A key ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said he was “ashamed” of the violence that has taken place in Chemnitz over the past week.
Peter Altmaier, the economic affairs minister and Merkel’s former chief of staff, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “What we have seen in Chemnitz is an excess of violence and this cannot be tolerated and it will not be tolerated.
“I feel ashamed when I see this violence that was directed against innocent people, immigrant people, and this is absolutely not acceptable.”
The eastern city has been rocked by violent protests in the wake of the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old German. The first protests, last Sunday, drew around 800 people, some of whom reportedly attacked police and people they thought were immigrants, shouting “We are the people” and “You’re not welcome here.”
Some 6,000 far-right extremists recruited from across the country and 1,000 left-wing counter-demonstrators marched through central Chemnitz on Monday night, authorities said. Major protests are planned for this weekend, with police expecting 10,000 demonstrators, according to the BBC.
Asked if there has been an increase in violence because of immigration, as claimed by the far-right Alternative for Germany, Altmaier said this was “simply not true.”
“What the AfD is doing is they are abusing administrative issues for political purposes in a way that is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Altmaier also defended the German government’s “open door” asylum policy in 2015, saying “it had to be done.”
He said if Europe “had been able to provide help to Syrian refugees two or three years before, if it had had a more united approach, perhaps things would have been slightly different … [but] we had to respond to it when the situation was real.”