Thousands rallied in Cologne on Sunday as supporters of the ‘Hooligans against Salafists' far-right group and their left-wing opponents took to the streets. Police had to deploy a water cannon in an attempt to control the counter-protest.
Law enforcers had earlier sought to ban Sunday’s demonstration by the far-rights. However, a Cologne court dismissed the motion and said the protesters would have the right to gather at a fixed location, but they would not be allowed to march through the city’s streets.
Hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators were also expected to confront the radicals. Heavy security presence was to make sure the two crowds would not go head-to-head.
Eventually, scuffles broke out between police and left-wingers and a water cannon was deployed in an attempt to push back the crowd, authorities said.
The far-right rally was organized by the ‘Hooligans against Salafists’ group. The organization, which is also known as HOGESA, is made up of self-styled football hooligans, right-wingers and neo-Nazis.
Media estimates put the number of those attending the HOGESA protest at around 600 people.
A similar demonstration took place in Cologne last year and ended in violent clashes between protesters and the police. Dozens, both protesters and police among them, were injured in the violence.
Tens of thousands turn out for counter demonstration – media
A number of counter-protests were held in the city. The anti-fascist rallies were staged by more than a dozen groups and associations including “Köln stellt sich quer” (Cologne impedes) and “Köln gegen Rechts” (Cologne against the Right) as well as some radical leftist and anarchist groups.
The number of demonstrators taking part in a counter-protest in the Cologne’s Deutz district near a railway terminal alone amounted to 4,500 people, German media reports, citing police sources. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the organizers of the counter protest claimed that “more than 10,000,” turned up, Swiss 20minuten news reports.
At the same time, Die Welt stated the total number of protesters taking part in different demonstrations in Cologne on Sunday reached 23,000.
The counter protesters carried banners and placards that read: “You are NOT the people!” “Fight racism!” “Refugees welcome!” “Equal rights for everyone” “Open the borders!” “Racism is the problem” and “Right to stay for everyone!”
According to German media, the clashes between the left and the right occurred even before the rallies began and left five people injured. The left-wing activists tried to block the arriving right-wing protesters at the Deutz railway terminal, by shutting off the exits, in order to prevent them from joining the HOGESA rally.
Police had to intervene by forcing the left-wing activists out of the building, Focus reports.
Later, about 150 anti-fascists reportedly attacked police officers forcing the latter to use tear gas. Water cannons were used against left-wing activists and anarchists near the Lanxess Arena as there were clashes and the protesters were reportedly setting off flares.