BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government on Monday denounced anti-refugee protests that took place in eastern Germany, calling the events in which a group of people hindered asylum seekers from getting off a bus to enter a shelter “deeply shameful”.
On Thursday night about 100 people blocked entry to a refugee shelter in Clausnitz, a small town in Germany’s eastern state of Saxony, with a tractor and two cars, police said.
“How cold-hearted, how cowardly one has to be to plant oneself in front of a refugee bus, to swear and to roar in order to scare the people sitting inside, among them several women and children,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Video footage posted online shows the crowd surrounding the bus with the refugees inside, yelling out slurs and hindering the refugees from getting off.
Unable to disperse the crowd, police officials called for support units and, with the help of the camp’s translator, urged the refugees to get off the bus despite the protests, a police report shows.
In the online video, several women and two minors on the bus can be seen crying and hugging each other in fear.
But the head of the local police, Uwe Reissmann, said on Saturday that some refugees were partly responsible for the situation. “The protesters were filmed from inside the bus and provoked by the refugees,” Reissmann said.
A young boy pointed his middle finger and some refugees made threatening gestures, moving their fingers across their throats to suggest a throat slash, he said.
In the video, one woman, wearing a light grey headscarf, can be seen spitting at bus window from inside. In another video, protesters can be heard yelling “Get lost”, “Stop crying and go home if you don’t like it here” and “Pull them out”.
Reissmann said that investigations into four protesters and some of the refugees were under way.
In a separate incident over the weekend, a shelter for asylum seekers was set ablaze in the city of Bautzen, also in Saxony, with several spectators applauding and some hindering the work of firemen.
While anxiety over immigration runs deep throughout Germany, Saxony saw anti-refugee riots, involving clashes with the police, last year in the town of Heidenau. But Seibert cautioned against generalizing the federal state in the east.
“I think it would be completely wrong to now draw conclusions on an entire region from incidents like in Clausnitz,” Seibert said. “There are also numerous people in Saxony, caring for refugees in a decent, compassionate manner.”
Additional reporting by Michelle Martin