Anti-Refugee Protests: Nazis and a Shitstorm on Twitter

Anti-Refugee Protests

Nazis and a Shitstorm on Twitter

When news broke that people in the village of Clausnitz tried to block refugees from entering and reaching their assigned residence, Germany started talking about Nazis.

20.02.2016 - Clausnitz (Sachsen) Solidaritätskundgebung Kundgebung für Geflüchtete

Clausnitz usually is a quiet place in a provincial region of Saxony, the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), near the Czech border. Buses run only a few times a day. The next supermarket is kilometers away. What happened on February 18th, however, caused a shitstorm on Twitter: A group of Clausnitz locals came to protest against a bus of refugees who German authorities moved there from the State’s capital Dresden.

As the pictures on the right-wing Facebook page called “Mittelsachsen wehrt sich” (Central Saxony fights back) show, people in Clausnitz tried to keep the bus of refugees from reaching their destination by blocking the road with cars and also other vehicles.


What else happened on February 18th, 2016, when the bus of refugees arrived in Clausnitz, shows an amateur cellphone video that went viral on the German Internet. Standing near a bus and policemen, the protesters shout that the refugees should “beat it” and “we are the people”, a slogan that was used at the demonstrations 1989 against the GDR-regime, which led to the fall of the East German state.

Polizei Sachsen in #clausnitz … Umgang mit verängstigten Flüchtlingskindern. #kaltland

Posted by Frank Stollberg on Freitag, 19. Februar 2016


The next day #clausnitz was trending on Twitter, where most netizens reacted appalled. With one saying:

To threaten a bus with refugees doesn’t have anything to do with freely expressing your political opinion, it’s inhumane crapshit. I could cry.#Clausnitz


Another tweeted:

To those son of bitches who yesterday threatened refugee women and children in #Clausnitz: every real German patriot spits on you lowlifes.


People in Clausnitz, however, saw the events differently. They tell a story that has nothing to do with violence or racism. To the weekly magazine Die Zeit, a 72-year-old resident recounted the events from his perspective.


”Among the protesters were many people that I know—a cross section of the people of Clausnitz. From youth to retirees. A few families even brought their kids.” All in all the evening was peaceful. “It was a quiet protest without any confrontations. Except maybe a few loudmouths.

Unter den Protestlern waren viele Leute, die ich kannte – ein Querschnitt durch Clausnitz. Vom Jugendlichen bis zum Rentner. Ein paar Familien haben sogar ihre Kinder mitgebracht.” Insgesamt sei der Abend friedlich verlaufen. “Das war eine ganz ruhige Protestmaßnahme, wo es auch keine Konfrontationen gab. Bis auf ein paar Großmäuler vielleicht.


Asked about the protesters’ motives and why many people who were supposed to live in one building with the refugees looked for new residences, he explains:


We want to feel comfortable in our homes, but that is not guaranteed anymore. We don’t want to live in social upheaval where there may permanently be demonstrations. (Demonstrations) from left-wings, right-wings and then maybe cars are going to burn.

„Wir wollen uns in unserem Zuhause wohlfühlen, aber das ist ja nicht mehr gewährleistet. Wir wollen nicht in einem sozialen Brennpunkt wohnen, wo vielleicht ständig Demos sind. Von Linken, Rechten und dann brennen vielleicht noch Autos.“


The Role of the Police

A reader of the article who has obviously also seen the video above writes:


There is a perfidious interplay of Nazis and police going on, which I have experienced on a demonstration in protest of the (right-wing party) Alternative für Deutschland [Alternative for Germany]. The Nazis accused some protesters that they expressed insults with gestures or words personally. The police don’t have anything better to do than to grab the accused protester and interview him about that matter. Then the police determine his personal data. And just like that the police is busy gathering info from ID cards of the protesters. The police join in and makes themselves equal to the Nazis.

Es gibt ein perfides Zusammenspiel von Nazis und Polizei, dass ich am eigenen Leib erleben durfte bei einer AfD-Gegenkundgebung. Die Nazis beschuldigen irgendwelche Gegendemonstranten, dass mit Gesten oder Worten Beleidigungen kundgetan wurden. Die Polizei hat dann nichts besseres zu tun, als sich den Beschuldigten Gegendemonstranten zu schnappen und zur Sachen zu vernehmen. Dann werden die Personalien festgestellt. Und schwupps – ist die Polizei damit beschäftigt, Gegendemonstranten zu erfassen über die Personalien im Personalausweis. (…) Die Polizei spielt dieses Spiel mit und macht sich damit mit den Nazis gemein. (…) Deutschland 2016.


Not just this netizen is upset about the police seen in the viral video. The policemen roughly hurrying a refugee teenager from the bus into the house was cause for nation-wide discussion with many Germans disagreeing with the used force. The police on the other hand say they were justified to act this way in a press conference:


“The responsible Chief of Police of the city Chemnitz, Uwe Reißmann, defended the actions of the police. In order to avoid attacks on the people in the bus, it was necessary to escort the refugees as quickly as possible to the residence. At the same time he declared people in the bus complicit in escalating the situation. He announced investigations against some refugees. They were filming from the bus and gave the finger and other such gestures to protesters in front of the bus.”

Der zuständige Polizeipräsident von Chemnitz, Uwe Reißmann, verteidigte das Vorgehen der Beamten. Um Angriffe auf den Bus und die Insassen zu verhindern, sei es notwendig gewesen, die Flüchtlinge schnellstmöglich in die Unterkunft zu bringen. (…) Zugleich gab er den Businsassen eine Mitschuld daran, dass die Lage eskalierte, und kündigte Ermittlungen gegen einzelne Flüchtlinge an. (…) Auch die Anwendung körperlicher Gewalt gegen einige der Flüchtlinge sei erforderlich gewesen. (…) Sie hätten aus dem Bus heraus gefilmt und mit Gesten wie dem Stinkefinger die davorstehenden Demonstranten provoziert.


Although there were no new incidents reported from Clausnitz, the situation in Saxony has not calmed down. Only a few days after Clausnitz, a future refugee residence was burned down by arsons in Bautzen. Newspapers report that onlookers applauded the fire. In reaction to those reports, the German Minster of Justice, Heiko Maas, tweeted:

Whoever blatantly cheers while houses are burning + refugees are scared to death is acting hideously + disgustingly. #Clausnitz #Bautzen


However, faced with open resistance against German refugee policy, only harshly condemning right-wing activism only seems to lead to a deeper divide as it doesn’t respond to the fears causing such hostility. Shaming protesters in Clausnitz without a political solution in sight appears to contribute to Germans sympathizing with right-wing parties like Alternative for Germany.


Recommended Reading

Cologne Sex Attacks: The Dilemma of Racism, The German Gist, January 14, 2016.

Boobs: No; Hate: Yes? Germans Discuss Facebook’s Censorship Policy, The German Gist, September 19, 2015.

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