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Leipzig: Politicians condemn third night of violence

September 6, 2020

Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer said "left-wing extremists" were behind clashes between protesters and police. Demonstrators they were against gentrification and a lack of affordable housing in the city.

Police vans in Leipzig
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Schmidt

A third-straight night of violent protests in the eastern city of Leipzig left at least two police officers injured and several people were detained, police said on Sunday.

Demonstrators clashed with police on Saturday evening, after a group had rallied to protest gentrification in the city's Connewitz district two days prior.

The gentrification protest was sparked by a police operation to evacuate a house occupied by a group of squatters since August 21.

The property was otherwise empty when squatters chose to occupy it, but the owner filed a criminal complaint for alleged trespassing, which led a Leipzig district court to issue an eviction order.

Some 100 people dressed in black and wearing hoods reportedly threw cobblestones and firecrackers at police, overturned garbage bins and built burning barricades, a police spokesperson said.

Authorities said that tear gas was used on the group and a helicopter was deployed to the scene. Police are investigating 15 suspects for breach of the peace, damage to property and resistance to law enforcement officers.

Read more: Germany: Stuttgart reckons with youth 'rage' after riots rock city

Saxony leader condemns 'leftwing extremism'

Leipzig's police chief Torsten Schultze said that the attackers were "apparent left-wing extremists."

Demonstrators have said they were protesting against gentrification and a lack of affordable housing in the city, as well as the purchase of many apartment buildings by groups of financial investors.

But Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung, from the center-left SPD, said the violent activism was counterproductive. "You don't create living space by attacking police officers and setting fire to barricades," he said. "This violence must be condemned in the strongest possible terms."

Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer dismissed the demonstrators' reasoning, saying "these people are not interested in this topic. They are interested in fighting our legal system."

Read more: Homelessness on the rise in Germany: study

The conservative (CDU) politician said on Sunday that the group was "left-wing extremists" hell-bent on violence against police and destruction.

Saxony's Interior Minister Roland Wöller announced stricter penalties for violence against officers.

Previously, those guilty of assaulting police would serve a minimum sentence of 3 months, but Wöller will seek to raise that to 6 months.

jcg/mm (AFP, dpa)