As It Happens

German mayor describes clashes between 'right-wing extremists' and refugees

A violent fight broke out between about 20 teen refugees and 80 right-wing extremists in Bautzen, Germany on Wednesday. Alexander Ahrens, the mayor of the small town, says that extremists came in from out of town and they were looking for a fight.
Mehdi, right, from Morocco shows an injury on his arm in Bautzen, Germany, which he says he suffered during riots. Police reported verbal and violent attacks have erupted between about 80 far-right activists and about 20 young asylum seekers. (Sebastian Kahnert/AP )

On Wednesday, a brawl broke out between about 20 refugees and 80 right-wing extremists in Bautzen, Germany. The two groups threw bottles and stones at one another. Police eventually had to accompany an ambulance to the hospital, after the extremists tried to block a young refugee for getting treatment for a stab wound.

This is just the latest in a series of confrontations in the small east German town. In February, a hotel that was put aside for refugees was set on fire and a crowd formed, with some cheering on the blaze. At the time, As It Happens spoke to the mayor of Bautzen, Alexander Ahrens, about the anti-refugee sentiment fomenting in his town.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Ahrens again as tensions flared on Wednesday in the town of 40,000.

Alexander Ahrens is the mayor of Bautzen, Germany. (Alexander Ahrens/Facebook)

Carol Off: Mayor Ahrens, how did this fight break out as far as you know?

Alexander Ahrens: Since about two or three weeks, we have a group of about 15 to 20 young refugees at about the age of 16 and 17 years old. They are travelling without parents or family. They are gathering at the so-called corn market, which is the central place in Bautzen. They were starting to insult people. There was one incident where there was a minor injury that was received from somebody in that group so we were on hand to deal with the problem. But the problem was well known on social media networks and apparently a large group of 80 far-right wing extremists made a rally and meeting point at this very place and started with provocation. If you start provoking young people at the age of 16 and 17 in a group, you don't need much to light a fire. For me, it's a clear sign that somebody was seeking the violence.

CO: When you say the problem was spread on social networks, so these people that added to the tensions, they came from outside of Bautzen?

AA: It looks as if they came from outside. We have lots of license plates in town from another county and the police took the data of some of the right-wing extremists and we will analyze where they came from. Some of them were known to police.

Police officers take a man into custody during a gathering on a square at the Kornmarkt in Bautzen, Germany. Police reported verbal and violent attacks have erupted between about 80 far-right activists and about 20 young asylum seekers. (Christian Essler/AP)

CO: Do you think that, in general, people in Bautzen are accepting of the refugees — in particular these young men who are there?

AA: The young men, we really had four or five in this group that were really kind of problem makers. But for the rest, everything is running very calm, quiet and smoothly. My impression was that nobody is really taking notice of the maybe 1,500 foreigners living in Bautzen nowadays. There was no problem at all with that question. So therefore I was quite shocked by the development in the last two or three days.

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Alexander Ahrens.