Police have made around 400 arrests as clashes broke outside the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party conference in Stuttgart. During their congress, the right-wing populist movement wants to adopt a clear anti-Islam stance, when its manifesto is presented.
A large number of demonstrators had gathered outside the building where the congress was to be held and several hundred protesters were trying to block access to those trying to attend the party conference.
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The violence started at around 06:00 local time and continued for around four hours.
The protesters threw flares, while they set car tires alight, while there were also scuffles between the demonstrators and the police. Around 400 people were arrested for violent behaviour, according to police spokesman Lambert Maute.
“Police detained around 400 violent protesters who threw stones at officers and attacked them withfireworks, Maute mentioned, according to Reuters.
The police also used a water canon and pepper spray to stop the protesters from getting into the conference centre grounds.
“There were no injuries reported, only some minor incidents of eye irritation due to the pepper spray,” the spokesman said.
There were around 1,000 security personnel on duty to try and maintain order. Around 2,000 members of the AfD were trying to attend the conference, which was delayed by around an hour due to long queues form at the registration points.
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In the build-up to the party conference, the AfD said Islam isn’t compatible with the German constitution. The party also wants to ban mosques and burqas from Germany.
“Islam is in itself a political ideology that is not compatible with the constitution,” AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, as cited by Reuters. “We are in favor of a ban on mosques, on muezzins and a ban on full veils,” she added.
The AfD has attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open stance on letting refugees enter Germany. Last year, around 1.1 million migrants from the Middle East and Africa settled in Germany.
Hansjoerg Mueller, an official at the AfD’s Bavarian branch spoke to RT in April and said that the majority of refugees coming to Germany are not fleeing war zones, but are merely looking for a better life. He said economic migrants should be separated from those in real need, and maintained that AfD is no stranger to helping “real refugees.”
“Alternative for Germany is the only party that really cares about these people,” Mueller said. “But in order to really help refugees we have to sort them out, bring in real refugees, care about them and feed them. But this is impossible if they’re [confused] with economic immigrants,” he said.
However, a German Muslim leader compared the AfD’s stance towards Muslims as similar to Hitler’s policies towards the Jews.
“It is the first time since Hitler’s Germany that a whole religious community is discredited and existentially threatened,” Aiman Mazyek, head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, told Germany’s NDR public television, according to Reuters.
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