A Facebook user's viral video of an alleged attack by three rejected asylum seekers on subway passengers In Munich has triggered numerous angry responses on social media. Police are calling on witnesses.
On Facebook, a video appearing to show a violent altercation between a group of alleged asylum seekers and several other passengers described as pensioners on the Munich subway has garnered much attention and generated many impassioned reactions, as tensions keep escalating in Germany over the ongoing refugee crisis.
The video’s uploader, Facebook user Tom R., described the incident and its build-up at length on his profile in a post published on Saturday, February 30. He says that, on that same afternoon, as he was sitting in the train opposite a young woman, there were three young men, "probably of Arab origin," sitting in the carriage, two of whom were behind the woman.
One of them, Tom claims, had an exchange in English with the woman, making her visibly uncomfortable, which he interpreted as an act of harassment. He added that the man in question "had his hand on her back" and that, after she seemingly rejected his alleged advances, he violently hit the carriage window, leading other passengers to shout at him.
At this point Tom R. points his camera to the third young man sitting on one of the four seats to his left. Apparently irritated to see his fellow foreigners being told off, the third man made a disrespectful gesture against one of the intervening passengers, allegedly stroking his bald head, which triggered the incident that led Tom to take his phone out and begin filming.
The 31-second video shows this third man, wearing an orange-brown jacket, as he stands on the seats and seemingly holds another passenger in a chokehold with his arm. The man is then pushed back by another older passenger, whose neck he grabs as well, as the other young men gather around him. Off camera, a male voice can be heard shouting at them to "behave like everyone else here." Tom R. writes that, once the subway reached the next station, and faced with the insistence of other passengers, the group of young men left the train.
As soon as it was published, the video quickly gained traction on social media, reaching over four million views and close to 100,000 shares in just four days. International media outlets, such as Russsia’s state-funded RT and the British tabloid "The Daily Mail," picked it up the following day. On Tuesday, the Munich police took the unusual step of publishing a statement in English on its Facebook page.
The police department urged caution in commenting on the situation, saying that, though it had "unambiguously identified" three men in the video, "Afghans of 19, 20 and 23 years of age," they did not have at that point "any information on the exact course of events," including the status of the three men. At that time, the police department refrained from commenting on whether the three men were refugees.
When contacted by DW, the police confirmed that out of the tree young men, who are now in police custody and in the process of being interrogated, two are rejected asylum seekers who may have been in Germany since as far back as 2012. They specified that, despite the video and Tom R.’s recounting of the events – neither of which they doubt - it was still unclear what exact crime had been committed and what charges could eventually be retained against them.
On Facebook, Tom R. had originally stated that he found it "beautiful" that Germany was offering safety to "one to two million foreigners", but he also regretted that Germans had to "sacrifice a big part of [their] own security," and that he had had "enough of violent refugees / asylum seekers!"
Many of those who shared his original post added their own comments to it, with reactions quickly turning against refugees, Angela Merkel’s welcome policy and to those who support it, mockingly called "Gutmenschen", or "do-gooders" in German.
Among them, user Beate Schuster said "I've had enough for a while, now, when will we finally do something?" Using irony, Bavaria-based Rainer Rietsch said "thank you, Madam Chancellor, there are only isolated cases, it's not that bad." Writing from Heilbronn, Özdür özdemir deamnded that the government "deport all the riffraff." Other users, such as Georg Fiebgier from Nürenberg, congratulated Tom R. for his post, also praising the "courage" of those who "stepped in."
Faced with the wide reach of his video, Tom R. published an edit to his original post, saying he would not be answering any more questions concerning this issue. He added that he would cease all activites on his Facebook profile.
This afternoon, in a second post touching upon the subway incident, the Munich police shared the full timeline of the three alleged attacks committed by the young men in the video and called for witnesses to come forward.