An anti-immigrant demonstration in Hamburg was shouted down by thousands of people protesting against xenophobia. Several other German cities have seen protests against racism and far-right violence in recent days.
Nearly 10,000 people crammed the streets of Hamburg on Wednesday evening to protest against a demonstration organized by far-right extremists.
Some 178 people attended the "Merkel must go" demonstration in the city's central Gänsemarkt square, waving anti-immigrant and anti-refugee banners and calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel a "traitor."
The protest was drowned out, however, by thousands of counterdemonstrators holding "Refugees are welcome" banners and posters hailing diversity and decrying right-wing rhetoric.
Some 1,000 police officers were deployed to separate the demonstrating groups. Hamburg police said in a statement that although the protests were largely peaceful, there were a few clashes reported.
Police used a water cannon on counterprotesters after they began throwing objects at officers. A journalist was also injured after being hit by a rock, but police did not say which side threw the stone. One participant in the right-wing demonstration was attacked and injured after leaving the "Merkel must go" demonstration.
Ties to AfD
According to Hamburg's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the city-state's internal security agency, Wednesday's demonstration was organized by members of the right-wing scene who also have ties to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party.
Siegfried Däbritz, a top member of the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant PEGIDA group, spoke at the right-wing protest along with Dennis Augustin, who is listed as the AfD's spokesman for the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
It was the first "Merkel must go" demonstration to occur in recent weeks, after the group held several regular demonstrations earlier this year.
Wednesday's protests follow on the heels of nationwide protests against far-right groups and racism in light of the violent demonstrations in the eastern German city of Chemnitz.
Right-wing protests — that were also attended by neo-Nazis and AfD politicians — broke out in Chemnitz after a 35-year-old German man was stabbed to death on August 26, for which two men, thought to be an Iraqi and a Syrian, were arrested.
A concert in Chemnitz on Monday against racism and far-right violence called "Wir sind mehr" or "We are more than this," drew an estimated 65,000 people to the city, dwarfing the right-wing protests held last week.
rs/sms (AFP, dpa)