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Opinion: Cheap populism in Bavaria

Peter Hille Bonn 0051
Peter Hille
January 3, 2019

After an incident involving abusive asylum-seekers was answered with "right-wing vigilante groups," an idyllic Bavarian town has become a populist flashpoint. Peter Hille says there must be more faith in the rule of law.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel

Four men in bright red vests are seen walking through the drizzling rain on the National Democratic Party of Germany's (NPD) Facebook page, along with the caption, "rain won't stop us." The extreme-right party says it is determined to create "safe zones" in the eastern Bavarian town of Amberg, where asylum-seekers beat up pedestrians in late December.

The post prompted locals to express concern about "right-wing citizen militias." That is a gross overstatement. Here is a proposal for a New Year's resolution: stay calm. When I look at the image of the four vested right-wing extremists, it fills me with sorrow rather than fear of any threat to the rule of law. One of the men looks to be over 70, and another is so heavyset that he cannot even button his vest. If these guys actually start to act like a citizen militia group, checking papers or being abusive in any way, I imagine local residents will be quick to notify the police.

Police, state prosecutors and judges

The Amberg police department did in fact receive a number of calls from concerned locals on December 29. Officers immediately sped to the town's main train station, where four young men had attacked and injured passersby. The perpetrators — asylum-seekers from Iran, Syria and Afghanistan — fled, but ended up in police custody two hours later.

Hille, Peter
DW's Peter Hille

The men had arbitrarily attacked 12 people for no apparent reason. Their actions were mean, despicable and malicious. Unfortunately, there is nothing novel about young men — be they from Syria or Saxony — drinking more than they can handle and then getting violent. Thankfully, we live in a society based on the rule of law and in which such idiots are quickly apprehended, charged and brought before a judge to answer for their crimes.

Dream crime stats in Amberg

By the way, criminal asylum-seekers do not just land in jail, they can be deported as well. Those who enjoy refugee status can be deported from Germany if convicted of a crime. Still, we do not deport those who face the threat of torture or death in their country of origin. That is something that anyone who claims to be a Christian or part of Western civilization should clearly understand.

Read more: Germany's atheist refugees: When not believing is life-threatening

Thus, we should hope the four perpetrators in this case receive swift justice. But we should also hope for less emotion when it comes to Amberg. The tiny city has 42,000 residents, fewer than 900 of whom are unemployed. In 2017, police recorded just 108 "violent criminal incidents." Those are numbers that other villages and towns can only dream of.

Over the coming days, concerned citizens from near and far will no doubt join the four vested far-right vigilantes. They will try to convince us that Amberg is as dangerous as Juarez or Tijuana and that the German government can't protect us. That is a load of bunk. Nevertheless, as long as concerned citizens remain peaceful they should indeed go out and protest, with or without vests — it is their right to do so. A right guaranteed by the rule of law.

Peter Hille Bonn 0051
Peter Hille Peter Hille is a multimedia reporter with a strong background in African affairs@peterhille