German far-right party threatens to start street patrols after ethnic violence

Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) has threatened to create its own street patrols to protect residents after the past week saw an outbreak of ethnic violence.

Last Saturday, four Muslim asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran allegedly assaulted Germans in Amberg, a town the southern state of Bavaria. According to police, the four teenagers, under the influence of alcohol, harassed and beat 12 passers-by.

The NPD claims police are not doing enough to stop crime. A video on its Facebook page purports to show one of their street patrols in Bavaria. An NPD patrol organizer, Axel Michaelis, told the BBC that the patrols will give citizens a better sense of security in urban areas that are affected by crime.

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The NPD is a small, fringe group without representation in state parliaments or the Bundestag. It has been branded racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist by German intelligence. Germany’s 16 states have called for a ban on the NPD, but the country's Constitutional Court rejected such a ban.

Amberg’s center-right mayor, Michael Cerny, told the news magazine Der Spiegel that the NPD was trying to exploit the situation politically.

“Now they want to discredit the police’s work,” Cerny said. “But the police have done a good job.”

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However, Rainer Wendt, the head of Germany’s police union, criticized authorities for saying the motive for the attacks was unknown.

“I’ll tell you the motive,” Wendt told Bild newspaper. “It is dislike for our nation and citizens who live among us.”

On Wednesday, Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, renewed his long-standing calls for stricter deportation laws. In an interview with Bild, he said that asylum-seekers who commit violent crimes must leave the country.

On New Year’s Day, a German drove a silver Mercedes into groups of pedestrians in the cities of Bottrop and Essen, two neighboring German cities in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia. Eight people were injured, including Muslim nationals. Police said the suspect made racist comments after his arrest. The state’s interior minister said the driver “had the clear intention of killing foreigners” and that the incident “had to be taken very seriously.”

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The German government condemned all these incidents of violence.

Ethnic tensions have risen in Germany since the influx of 1.5 million Muslims from war zones in the Middle East. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s acceptance of these refugees cost her leading Christian Democratic Union votes in the 2017 election. Many of her supporters switched their support to the far-right, anti-Islamic Alternative for Germany (AFD), which is seated in the German Bundestag for the first time and, with 91 seats, is now the main opposition party.