BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday accused the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) of using violent protests over a fatal stabbing blamed on migrants to stir up ethnic tension.
Far-right groups clashed with police and chased people they deemed to be migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz on Aug. 26 after police said a Syrian and an Iraqi had been detained as suspects in the killing of a 35-year-old German man.
AfD leader Alexander Gauland had earlier this week urged a “peaceful revolution” against Merkel’s liberal immigration policy and said this required banishing politicians and members of the media who support the “Merkel system”.
Asked about the role of the AfD in the events in Chemnitz, Merkel told the RTL broadcaster: “The AfD is stirring up the mood and this has to be said clearly. I view some of their remarks very critically.”
The protests in Chemnitz have set off a debate about whether politicians are being too complacent in the face of rising xenophobia in a country where many had thought the lessons of Germany’s Nazi history had been learned.
The protests, during which some members of an 800-strong crowd performed the illegal Hitler salute, laid bare the divisions in Germany over Merkel’s decision in 2015 to take in around one million, mostly Muslim asylum seekers.
Some in Germany blame Merkel’s liberal immigration policy for the rise of the AfD, which entered parliament for the first time in an election last year as the third-largest party.
After the violence in Chemnitz, German politicians urged intelligence agencies to start monitoring the far-right party, some of whose members marched with supporters of the anti-Islam PEGIDA group in the city last weekend to protest the stabbing.