Prosecutors in the eastern German city of Chemnitz say they have arrested six men on suspicion of plotting attacks against foreigners and politicians. The announcement comes weeks after a series of violent far-right rallies rocked the city.
The men were alleged to have formed a group called “Revolution Chemnitz” and been part of the “skinhead, hooligan, and neo-Nazi” scenes in and around the city. The suspects were allegedly planning to procure semi-automatic weapons and aimed to “overthrow the rule of law and democracy.”
More than 100 officers were involved in the arrests in Chemnitz, the surrounding state of Saxony, and Bavaria. A seventh member of the group was reportedly arrested earlier this month. According to the Telegraph, five of the men had previously carried out attacks on migrants earlier in September, including hitting a migrant over the head with a bottle.
Chemnitz has been at the center of far-right violence in Germany since late August when the death of a German man, allegedly at the hands of two migrants, sparked violent far-right protests. Demonstrators were alleged to have attacked anyone in the city center “who did not not look German,” while in other incidents, police stood by while protesters performed the Nazi salute, which is illegal in Germany.
— IM Reul 👻 (@Korallenherz) August 27, 2018
The German state reacted forcefully to the violence seen in Chemnitz. Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was “no excuse” for the “inhuman” violence. Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer described the scenes as “disgusting,” while local police admit that they’d been initially ill-equipped for the scale of the violence.
However, the Chemnitz rallies shone a spotlight on the worrying proliferation of racist and xenophobic views in Germany. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which made major gains against Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in last September’s elections, was vocal in supporting the protests. In the immediate aftermath of the altercation that set off the far-right rallies, for instance, AfD politician Markus Frohnmaier tweeted that it was “citizens’ duty to stop the [death-bringing] ‘knife migration!'”
It also emerged that the protests had been in part triggered by the leak of the arrest warrant, which described the suspects’ ethnicity. The photo was reportedly leaked by a prison guard, and spread online among right-wing groups.
Perhaps more worryingly, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency was forced to step down in mid-September after questioning the authenticity of some of the videos showing demonstrators hounding migrants. Hans-Georg Maaßen, who headed the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, was moved to the interior ministry. His comments echoed those of AfD’s co-leader Alexander Gauland, who also claimed Merkel was spreading fake news about the extent of the violence in Chemnitz.