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Police use water cannon to quell violent protest at neo-Nazi rally (TELEGRAPH UK) By Kate Connolly in Berlin, GERMANY 01/31/05)Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/31/wnazi31.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/01/31/ixportal.html DAILY TELEGRAPH DAILY TELEGRAPH Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Riot police used water cannon to disperse violent demonstrators at the weekend protesting against a rally by neo-Nazis in the latest confrontation provoked by Germany´s extreme Right.

About 7,000 mainly Left-wing protesters threw bottles and firecrackers in an attempt to break through a cordon of police protecting 300 extremists in the northern city of Kiel.

The far-Right demonstrators were mostly members of the National Democratic Party (NPD). Police made about 50 arrests during the clashes.

The hostilities were described as "massive and hard".

Tyres and rubbish bins were set on fire and street and shop signs were vandalised before the police used the water cannon.

The street battle raged against the backdrop of a constitutional row over moves to ban the NPD, Germany´s main extremist grouping.

Its growing presence in mainstream politics, particularly following significant gains in regional elections last autumn, is causing increasing embarrassment to the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The debate has taken on additional urgency following an announcement by the NPD two weeks ago that it will join forces with a smaller party, the German People´s Union to increase the Right´s chances of gaining seats in the Bundestag in next year´s general election.

At present the parties have no members in the federal parliament but they are represented in the regional parliaments of Saxony and Brandenburg in the former communist east and Bremen in the north.

The NPD flaunted its new confidence this month when its members walked out of a minute´s silence in the state parliament of Saxony for the victims of the Holocaust.

They said the silence should have been held for the German victims of war, particularly those killed in the RAF´s 1945 bombing of Dresden, which they called a "bombing holocaust".

The NPD plans to demonstrate next month at ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the bombing in a bid to disrupt proceedings.

In a survey in today´s edition of Spiegel magazine, 63 per cent of Germans said they supported attempts to ban the NPD. Twenty-eight per cent of respondents opposed a ban. The NPD, which is often compared to the embryonic Nazi party because of its anti-Semitic and xenophobic outbursts, has so far stayed on the right side of the law.

Party members say they want it to "become the conscience of the people". It has had most success in eastern Germany, an area of high unemployment, where it has tapped into huge discontent over government attempts to overhaul the welfare state and labour market.

Despite earlier unsuccessful government campaigns to outlaw the NPD on the grounds that it incites racial hatred, a ban could still succeed, the head of the constitutional court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, said.

In 2003 the court, Germany´s highest, threw out attempts to ban the party after it emerged that informers had been paid by the government to give evidence. The court ruled that this made the case invalid.

The government is now working on a law to ban demonstrations at sites linked to the Second World War, including the Holocaust memorial and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. 01/31/05)

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