Cologne: Anti-Islam rally canceled

German police Saturday canceled an anti-Islam congress organized by a far-right group on safety grounds in Cologne after the venue was blocked by opponents. Radical leftists also fought riot police on the streets.

A far-right group Pro-Cologne had called the rally to oppose a decision by local authorities in Cologne to allow the construction of a mosque with a high dome and minarets.

It invited nationalist groups from around Europe to join the "Stop Islam" rally to fight what it called the "Islamisation and immigration invasion" of Germany and Europe.

But only 50 supporters of the anti-immigrant group Pro Cologne managed to reach a city square for the scheduled rally against plans to construct a grand mosque in the German city.

An anti-right sit-down by 5,000 mostly peaceful demonstrators had blocked every entrance to the square. At the same time, police were fighting pitched battles with extreme leftists who tried to occupy the square.

The "Stop Islam" rally did start briefly, with more reporters than rightists attending but then city police declared the event illegal on public-safety grounds.

"The rally has been cancelled," a police spokesman said. The announcement sparked cheers from many protesters.

"The safety of our Cologne people has priority," said a police spokesman after ugly clashes between far-leftists and riot police.

The leftists, who were bent on occupying a city square set aside for the rightists to use, assaulted police and tried to snatch their pistols. Riot police advanced against them, swinging batons.

At Heumarkt, the square set aside for the rightists, the far left attacked roadblocks at several places and scuffled with riot police, but were repulsed.

"We had to crack down hard to avoid something worse happening," a police spokesman said. Reporters saw two men being detained. A police officer was hurt in the face when a firecracker was thrown at him.

Expecting trouble, riot police kept water-cannon trucks that can knock a man to the ground at 30 meters at the ready.

A police spokesman said the leftists were no longer attacking in small groups but in large formations.

Television images showed that only about 50 rightists managed to pass the blockade and enter the city square, where "no mosque" banners were hanging.


Source: Deutsche Welle (English)

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