Police use water cannon to quell violent protest at neo-Nazi rally (TELEGRAPH UK) By Kate Connolly in Berlin, GERMANY 01/31/05)
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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
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
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,
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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