gathered in on Saturday, having failed in repeated court attempts — including a last minute Constitutional Court appeal — to secure permits for their demonstration.
Police and firefighters already had their hands full overnight on Friday, clashing with protesters in some parts of the city. By morning, they were still extinguishing fires set by vandals and counting the costs of property damage.
Impromptu demonstrations took place and then turned violent as local courts upheld a ban on the larger protest march planned for Saturday.
Police said that as many as 700 people had gathered in the south of the city and that many had thrown objects at law enforcement, some of them from balconies and rooftops.
“Barricades were erected and fires were lit,” Leipzig police said in a statement. “By the current count, the police has 23 lightly wounded officers and 17 damaged vehicles.” They also noted comparatively major damage at one branch of the Sparkasse bank.
The protesters had originally said that they intended to march from the south of the city to the main station. But given the restrictions on their plans, it wasn’t clear what form the protest would take.
Typically, police in Germany don’t necessarily try to break up and send home any protest that goes ahead without a permit. However, they do often try to contain it to a limited area, for example by warning people who leave that area that they risk detention.
Footage online from the start of the demonstrations showed a combination of more smartly dressed protesters speaking about political goals at an impromptu podium, but also mobs of young people dressed in black and obscuring their faces roaming other parts of town, in one case throwing flares towards a police van.
What are they upset about?
The activists are demonstrating in the aftermath of . She also received a last-minute reprieve of sorts, when the judge said she would only have to serve the remainder of her jail sentence should she also lose at appeal.
The scheduled date for the verdict had been known for months, and Lina’s supporters evidently were not optimistic of her chances of acquittal, as they had been drumming up support for protests on the following weekend since last year.
They referred to it as “day X” (Tag X), a term often used in German to describe a moment in the future that you believe will be somehow decisive or crucial.
They wanted to stage the march under a motto that roughly translates as “United we stand — defend autonomous antifascists, in spite of all this.”
Why did they need permission?
Major protests in Germany require authorization from authorities. Local governments and courts can restrict them if they deem that the event could pose a risk to public safety, among other reasons.
Leipzig city authorities and two courts in the city have now ruled that Saturday’s demonstration should not go ahead, saying that advanced online appeals calling on people to protest either showed a tendency towards violent acts or sometimes even included explicit calls for violence.
“Leipzig’s Higher Administrative Court is also of the conviction, that the city of Leipzig plausibly predicted that the protests could turn violent and therefore pose a threat to the broader public,” Leipzig’s Higher Administrative court said late on Friday when upholding the first court decision finding that the march should not be allowed.
The German Constitutional Court, meanwhile, said on Saturday that it would not hear a last-gasp emergency injunction on the issue, meaning the protesters had exhausted their legal avenues.
Police had also said that the estimated turnout from organizers of between 400 and 500 people did not seem realistic, given the far larger turnouts — including 3,500 people in 2021, when Lina E.’s trial opened — for past protests with much more muted and shorter periods trying to mobilize support online. They estimated that 700 people took part on Friday night, before the main event.
Protests also coincide with Leipzig’s bid for German Cup
Leipzig police might have anticipated a busy Saturday even prior to Lina E.’s verdict and the aftermath.
RB Leipzig play Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Cup (or DFB Pokal) football final in Berlin on Saturday evening. Although many of Leipzig’s most involved supporters might have traveled to the capital for the game, interest on the streets in the city is also liable to be great.
It also coincides with a march by the environmental protest group calling itself Last Generation in the city, and some other demonstrations that law enforcement saw no reason to block.
City police said that after Friday’s unrest, checks were still being carried out at some points in the city.
“Police have made it their target for today, as well, to secure all demonstrations that take place and to be able to deal with any possibly violent gathering or mobilization. Police helicopters will again be used today to monitor and direct operations. The previous night confirmed how necessary this was,” police wrote.
msh/nm (AFP, dpa)
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