A march by German self-described “hooligans” and alleged neo-Nazis against Islamic fundamentalism in Cologne, Germany, turned into a bloody riot Sunday involving more than 4,000 people that saw 43 police officers wounded. Rioters overturned a police van and hurled bottles and fireworks at police, who used pepper spray, water cannons and dogs to quell them.
The demonstration was organized by members of Germany’s far-right and extreme football hooligan crowds calling themselves Hooligans Against Salafists, or HoGeSa for short, referring to an Islamic movement that seeks to return to the values of early Islam in daily life. Many were heavily intoxicated and came in from out of town, according to police.
Riot police were deployed when protesters began throwing bottles and fireworks at less heavily protected police. Around 1,300 officers were deployed in total. Police confiscated a loaded handgun, machetes and batons from members of the crowd, according to Bloomberg. One protester was injured in the clashes.
“Demonstrators attacked the police in massive numbers,” a police spokesman said. “We used pepper spray, truncheons and water cannon to get the situation under control quickly.”
Many protesters had tattoos and paraphernalia indicative of the far-right movement in Germany. Some were heard shouting “Foreigners out!” and “Free, social and national: National Socialism now!” (The word Nazi means National Socialist.) One German Resistance flag used by anti-Nazi Germans during World War II was seen flying in the crowd.
A group of 500 people held a counter-demonstration nearby under the slogan “Shoulder to shoulder against racism and religious extremism.”
The anti-Salafist phenomenon has gained momentum recently, with clashes in Hamburg and Celle between the such groups and Kurds. Just under 4 percent of Germany’s population is Muslim. Around 6,300 of those nearly 3 million Muslims are Salafists, but the movement is growing, according to German domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen. He said Saturday that number is double what it was three years ago and expressed concern that the Salafist movement had helped inspire the 450 or so German residents who have gone to fight with the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Disaffected youths are particularly vulnerable to the movement’s influence, he said.