A riot erupted in the German town of Heidenau on Saturday when an angry mob of anti-immigrant protesters greeted buses loaded with 250 asylum seekers.
Thirty one police officers were injured in the melee, one of them seriously, authorities told Tagesspiegel. The demonstration reportedly turned violent when members of the far-right National Democratic Party arrived on the scene.
Protesters hurled bottles and rocks at the buses and chanted "Wir sind das Volk," ("We are the people") — a rallying cry used by East Germans calling for reunification before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The saying was repurposed earlier this year by the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (PEGIDA) movement.
Police resorted to using tear gas to disperse the protesters, who numbered in the several hundreds, and the buses ultimately made it to their destination, a former store that will house the refugees temporarily.
The protest took place 23 years to the day after the Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots, some of the worst anti-immigrant riots in modern German history.
On Facebook, the mayor of Heidenau said "the reputation of our city as a family-friendly municipality has been significantly damaged" by the protests. He called on all citizens to support the refugees that were taking up residence in their city.
Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Germany as the country is on track to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year — quadruple the number accepted in 2014. Anti-Islamic PEGIDA protests held around the country drew tens of thousands of demonstrators earlier this year.
German politicians took to social media to express their disappointment with Saturday's xenophobic display. Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth tweeted, "Sometimes you don't want to be a foreigner in our country. But neither do you want to be a German. I am ashamed of these racists in Heidenau."
The "blind hatred and rejection towards asylum seekers fleeing war, poverty and persecution, shocked me," Martin Dulig, Social Democratic Party's leader in Saxony, said on Facebook. He added, "This racism and xenophobia witnessed yesterday will not be tolerated. The incidents are simply shameful. This is something we will not accept in our country."
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