Violence erupts in Germany between left and right wing protesters

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The streets of Cologne, Germany erupted in violence Saturday as left wing demonstrators began attempting to halt a right wing rally. Leftist protesters began setting fire to barricades, throwing rocks, stealing weapons, and blocking passage to the "Stop Islam" rally. A force of 3,000 police responded with batons and water cannons, and reported that the violence had begun happening in "large formations" instead of small groups.

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Should rallies and demonstrations that protest religions or ethnicities be banned?

The anti-Islam rally, organized by the anti-immigration group Pro-Koeln (or "Pro-Cologne"), was protesting the construction of a mosque in the city and what the group referred to as an "immigrant invasion" of Europe. Plans are underway for the mosque to be completed by 2009 and to be constructed in the city's heavily immigrant district of Ehrenfeld. The mosque is intended to serve Turkish-speaking immigrants and began planning because their current mosque is not large enough for the congregations, and would be the largest mosque in the city.

German police had canceled the protest earlier, fearing violence would break out, and later attempted to halt the fighting between the left and right wing groups. Over 5,000 nonviolent objectors to the rally conducted a sit-down, blocking every entrance to the rally and preventing all but fifty supporters out of 1,500 expected from attending.

Objections have been heard locally and internationally, with local business owners refusing to sell the city's famous beer to supporters attending the right-wing rally. Iran demanded that Germany halt the rally, and the German Interior Ministry denounced the rally, stating that "populists and extremists harms the co-existence that the city and Muslim citizens have striven for." Cologne's mayor Fritz Schramma condemned it as well, referring to the Pro-Koeln group as "racists in bourgeois dress" but stressing that the city felt they had the right to free speech.