German city's mayor seeks to reassure foreign students
CHEMNITZ, Germany – The mayor of Chemnitz sought Friday to reassure foreign visitors, students and investors that the eastern German city is safe, despite violent far-right protests earlier this week.
Barbara Ludwig told reporters that "at the moment there's a lot of uncertainty and fear on various sides" following the unrest sparked by the suspected killing of a German man by migrants on the weekend.
Images of neo-Nazis shouting "foreigners out" during a protest Monday made headlines far beyond Germany, prompting concern among businesses and the city's University of Technology, which has a large share of students from abroad.
Following the killing early Sunday morning, which prosecutors have said stemmed from a verbal disagreement, hundreds of people also took to the streets spontaneously the same day and attacked police officers as well as several foreigners.
"We're going to make clear in the coming weeks and months that foreign students and foreign investors do indeed have their place in this city and will be safe here," Ludwig said.
Switzerland's foreign ministry has already updated advice for its citizens traveling to Germany, not singling out Chemnitz but saying that "there may be demonstrations in big cities" and cautioning that "rioting is possible."
The city accepted additional help from federal police, and a demonstration of hundreds of people on Thursday was largely calm.
Even before the demonstrations, anti-migrant sentiment in Saxony, the eastern state where Chemnitz is located, has been high, with about a quarter of voters backing the far-right Alternative for Germany party in last year's election.
Global chip maker Globalfoundries told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper the state's reputation has made it difficult to attract skilled foreign workers to the state.
"It's not easy to convince an engineer to move to Saxony and bring his family with him," spokesman Jens Drews told the business daily. "We need to explain to him that the Dresden region, that his children can go alone to school, and that one won't be marginalized for wearing a head scarf."
There have been anti-migrant attacks well before the Chemnitz demonstrations.
On Friday, a 31-year-old was convicted of attempted murder, using explosives and attempted arson for a 2016 attack on a Dresden mosque. Nino K., whose last name wasn't given in line with privacy laws, was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison.
During his trial, experts testified that it was only by luck that the imam's family wasn't injured in the attack.
David Rising in Berlin contributed to this story.