Chemnitz, Germany – During a protest against the German far-right in Chemnitz, paramedics were targeted by right-wing violence and pepper sprayed from a rooftop by a right wing demonstrator while providing medical support to protesters in a police kettle at Johannisplatz, a public square in the city. A medic provided their first hand account to Unicorn Riot of what took place.
On Saturday, September 1, factions of the German left, as well as residents concerned about the rise of the German right, organized a counter-demonstration after seven consecutive days of right-wing street actions and vigilante attacks on racial minorities following the alleged stabbing of a Cuban-German by persons of Syrian and Iraqi descent.
Far-right demonstrators in Chemnitz, Germany, September 1, 2018. Photo by Tim Lüddemann (source).
During the left-wing counter-demonstration on September 1, a group of protesters were kettled for hours in the Johannisplatz plaza between two buildings and two lines of riot police. A group of demonstration paramedics (DE: Demo-Sanis, Demonstration Sanitäter) entered the kettle to provide aid to those who were injured in the clashes with the police and during the kettling process.
Demo-Sanis are a common sight at demonstrations and actions. While it’s true that protesters may carry basic first aid kits or wear red crosses, Demo-Sanis are distinctly marked in paramedic attire and are neutral third parties that do not participate in the demonstrations and usually stand a distance away from the main demonstration.
#demosanisleisten ehrenamtlich Erste Hilfe auf Demonstrationen. Ihre Ausrüstung beinhaltet bei besonderen Gefahrenlagen auch Helm und Gasmaske. pic.twitter.com/0NYiFRqADd
Three hours into the kettle, someone from the German right on an adjacent rooftop sprayed mace over the paramedics and nearby protesters. The paramedics had to abandon their makeshift clinic set up between the tables and benches, and several people were treated for exposure to the chemical agent.
A local medic who asked to be identified as Alex, said he was unsure what happened initially and was concerned it was police pepper spray blowing over from other conflicts.
“I talked to people later who were part of that crowd, and they directly witnessed the attack. They said a white guy in black clothes moved to the edge of the roof on his hands and feet and sprayed pepper spray from there.”
Shortly after the incident, protesters with flashlights spotted two figures on a fire escape on one of the buildings. Alex added that it was clear to him that it was planned and said:
“This is especially troublesome since this was not a direct confrontation between protestors, but a clearly planned attack aimed not only on a large group of unknowing protestors in a police kettle, but also on the uniformed medics who were with them.”
During the kettle, the Demo-Sanis were impeded by the police in evacuating injured persons who required hospitalization. Another medic quoted that the impediments by the police were unusual and could be the sign of a possible change in police policy.
“Chemnitz is neither gray nor brown” reads a poster placed below a bust of Karl Marx (the town was named Karl-Marx-Stadt in East German times). Photo by Tim Lüddemann (source).
This right-wing attack on paramedics comes on the heels of the Saxon police leaking the arrest warrant for the stabbing of Daniel H. to far-right groups, as well as a member of the Saxon police taking part in a far-right Pegida demonstration and ordering police to detain journalists. Both actions exhibiting ties between the Saxon police and the far-right.
Saxony (DE: Sachsen), the landlocked federal state located in eastern Germany along the Czech and Polish borders, has had a militant far-right for many years. Cells of neo-Nazis based in the Saxon town of Zwickau were responsible for at least 10 murders nationwide from 2000 to 2007.
The right-wing presence ranges from explicitly Nazi groups to the German far-right political party Alternative for Germany (DE: AfD, Alternative für Deutschland), which has its strongest base in Saxony and neighboring eastern German states,
AfD has gained in recent polls on the national level and is in contention to take power from local allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the next state election. In 2017, AfD nearly won the federal constituency seat in Chemnitz, less than a point behind CDU.
Also in Chemnitz at the September 1 right-wing demonstration, was Pegida (“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West”, DE: Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes), a German far-right nationalist and anti-Muslim political movement. Pegida was founded in Dresden, another Saxon city in 2014.
Activists and paramedics alike, are raising concerns about fascist and right-wing attacks against the Demo-Sanis as well as the police interference into the medic’s duties, who voluntarily provide a critical service helping injured persons during demonstrations.
In previous coverage from Germany last year, Unicorn Riot reporters documented protests and actions at the G20 in Hamburg.