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Cologne police prohibit NYE rallies

December 30, 2016

Police and a court in Cologne have denied requests from two German parties to hold rallies on New Year's Eve. Officials cited security concerns in barring the rallies by the AfD and the far-right NPD.

Cologne train station
Image: picture alliance/dpa/R. Goldmann

The right-wing extremist National Party of Germany (NPD) and the populist, anti-migration Alternative for Germany (AfD) will not be allowed to hold rallies in Cologne on New Year's Eve, police said Thursday.

Cologne Police Chief Jürgen Mathies said he "didn't want to inhibit political expression" with the two bans, but that he was "solely concerned" with the security of participants and bystanders.

Police had already announced their ban on the NPD's demonstration on Tuesday. The far-right party then took their case to Cologne's administrative court, which upheld the police chief's decision.

On Thursday, the court ruled the NPD's freedom of assembly would have to be diminished "in this particular case" out of concern for public safety.

Police argued that they did not have enough security personnel to monitor the New Year's Eve crowds and protect the NPD protesters.

Several groups had said they would hold counter-demonstrations, should the NPD be allowed to hold their rally.

Police also cited the special security situation as a reason for denying the AfD's 10 to 15-member planned protest. It was not immediately clear if the AfD would also take their case to court or if the NPD would appeal the ban to the higher administrative court.

An anti-racism organization, "Köln gegen Rechts," has accused the NPD of attempting to exploit the presence of domestic and international media and instrumentalizing the sexual assaults that took place last New Year's Eve.

Security in Cologne beefed up for New Year's Eve

Heightened security

In light of the spate of sexual assaults that took place last New Year's Eve in Cologne and the truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market last week, police in Cologne have massively increased security measures for this year.

Around 1,500 police officers will be deployed and concrete barriers will be set up, Mathies said Wednesday.

Last year, hundreds of women were sexually harassed, assaulted and robbed by men who witnesses described as being of Middle Eastern or North African descent. The assaults sparked public outrage, with many criticizing Cologne police for being unprepared and slow to respond. The assaults also stoked anti-migrant sentiment, particularly within far-right parties.

rs/cmk (AFP, dpa)