GERMAN police attacked anti-fascist protesters in Cologne with water-cannon blasts yesterday as they sought to keep them away from a far-right demonstration.
Thousands of police officers in riot gear were deployed as Hooligans Against Salafists (Hogesa) — a group launched in 2014 to bring together neonazis and football hooligans into a single movement — rallied to mark one year since it led a riot in the city that saw 44 police officers seriously injured.
The Islamophobic Pegida organisation’s Cologne affiliate Kogida staged rallies alongside it, but the fascistic groups — well-known for reviving nazi chants such as “Germany for the Germans” — were outnumbered by the left. Police estimated about 23,000 people were demonstrating for one side or the other and were taking no chances, with a helicopter monitoring the demos from above and an armoured bulldozer at the ready.
Eyewitnesses said the hooligans had managed to smuggle fireworks through police lines and were setting them off, though it was unclear if they were being aimed at officers as happened last year. Clashes between the fascists and anarchists of the Black Bloc were reported at Barmer Square.
The Hogesa rally itself — confined to the area around the Deutz train station by judicial order — attracted about 1,000 people, about a fifth of last year’s turnout. Frankfurter Allgemeine reporter Reiner Burger noted that despite appeals for demonstrators who were “ideally not intoxicated and had no criminal record,” it was “not easy to find enough people who meet these requirements” at the demo.