German court overrules Heidenau demo ban | News | DW | 28.08.2015
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German court overrules Heidenau demo ban

The ban on public gatherings in Heidenau is "illegal," a regional court declared, after local authorities called off a pro-refugee rally over safety concerns. The German town has been struggling with far-right violence.

The Dresden court made its decision after an urgent appeal on Friday. The appeal was filed by a person who wanted to take part in one of the rallies scheduled that day.

Earlier, local authorities decided to ban all public gatherings, as the supporters of refugees and far-right protesters both had demos scheduled for Friday.

The police could not "eliminate the possibility of violent encounters between the two camps," according to the local officials.

However, the court decided that was not a valid reason as "police forces from other states and from the federation could be made available."



"In addition, police have the resources, including water cannon, to prevent any disproportionate damage," the court said.

Heidenau was hit by clashes between anti-migrant protesters and the security forces last week, leaving dozens of police officers injured. The town quickly became a flashpoint for the rising anti-refugee sentiment in Germany.

In response, several activist groups decided to hold a symbolic event welcoming immigrants in the town on Friday, with live music, a football game and a fundraiser.

'Democracy out of power'

The leader of the German Green party Cem Özdemir said he would head to Heidenau despite the authorities' decision to call off the Friday event.

"It is simply unacceptable that the authorities in Saxony say: 'We don't have enough police officers'," Özdemir said to German public broadcaster ARD.

"We cannot simply put democracy on hold for four days," he added.

The Green party was considering moving the event to private property, party representatives said.

Announcing his intentions on Twitter, Özdemir said: "If the state of Saxony is going to capitulate, we are not! We will come to Heidenau tomorrow, at 3 p.m. #WelcomeParty."

Özdemir, perhaps Germany's most prominent politician with Turkish roots, called on "everybody who doesn't have anything urgent to do today" to join him in Heidenau.

"We will show that this state is not helpless," he said.

The deputy president of Germany's GdP police trade union, Jörg Radek, also criticized the ban, calling it "a slap in the face" to those opposing the right-wing propaganda.

"This is bowing down to the mob in Heidenau," he said.

Intimidation

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas himself visited Heidenau on Thursday, where he decried "intimidation" by the far-right groups.

"A girl has told us that she is too afraid to go out in the street at night - not because of the asylum seekers, but because of the far-right extremists," he said when meeting the Heidenau high school students.

Germany is expected to receive some 800,000 refugees by the end of the year, with officials struggling to provide housing and security for them.

dj/msh (dpa, Reuters, epd, AFP)

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