Neo-Nazis and their opponents protest in Cologne

The West German city of Cologne experienced two demonstrations today. One was a gathering of several hundred promoters of the extreme right protesting against Muslims in Germany and a planned mosque in Cologne. Several thousand people also gathered for a counter-protest called by politicians, church officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations. No serious incidents were reported. The events were monitored by 5 600 police officers, including police on horseback.

The promoters of the extreme right were convening a so-called “Anti-Islamic Congress”. In their speeches, they called Germany a “dictatorship of political correctness”. Extreme left-wing individuals tried to disrupt the gathering, but police did not let the anarchists reach the neo-Nazis, preventing a repeat of the violence of September 2008 that accompanied the first “Anti-Islamic Congress”. This time police did not permit the right-wing radicals to come near Cologne House and told them they had to hold their event at a different place in Cologne. A march to the Cologne mosque, now under construction and a particular thorn in the side of the neo-Nazis, was also forbidden. Both bans were upheld by first-instance courts and, in the early hours of Saturday, by the German Constitutional Court as well. According to DPA, experts are warning against the neo-Nazis’ “undemocratic and xenophobic ideology.” This was also why the counter-protest of several thousand people took place, refusing “to leave the streets to the brown birds”, a reference to the brown shirts worn by members of the “Hitler Youth”, the erstwhile youth organization of the fascist NSDAP.

“Today’s signal is clear: Democrats are united against right-wing radicalism, racism and instigation,” Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the German Green Party, told DPA. Mayor Fritz Schramma declared that there is no room in Cologne for an extreme-right ideological platform.