German police said Tuesday they have arrested 211 far-right extremists who went on a rampage on the sidelines of a xenophobic rally in Leipzig, setting cars on fire and smashing windows.
The extremists are known to police as football hooligans, and had wrought chaos Monday at an area of the eastern city known to be left-leaning, just as thousands of far-right supporters of the anti-migrant Pegida movement were gathering at a peaceful demonstration, authorities said.
News website Spiegel Online also published a picture of a kebab shop with a smashed window.
Germany has been outraged by a rash of crime targeting women at New Year's festivities in Cologne in the west that has been blamed on migrants.
As thousands rallied to blame refugees for the violence, a group of hooligans broke away and smashed windows, burned cars and rubbish bins and shot off pyrotechnics that set a floor of a building on fire.
In return, left-wing radicals vandalised a bus that had been chartered by the hooligans, police said.
In all, 57 offences were committed that night, police said.
Germany has recorded a sharp jump in crime attributed to the far-right in tandem with the surge in asylum seeker arrivals which reached 1.1 million last year.
Police said groups linked to Cologne's extremist hooligan scene had used social media to organise gatherings in the inner city Sunday evening, and launched a spate of attacks against Pakistani, Syrian and African men.
Pegida rally peaceful
At the Pegida rally the crowd loudly vented its anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom they accuse of destroying their homeland by allowing in 1.1 million asylum seekers last year.
“We are the people”, “Resistance!” and “Deport them!”, chanted the followers of LEGIDA, the local chapter of xenophobic group Pegida, the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident”.
A heavy police presence, with water canon at the ready, kept watch over the crowd of several thousand, and separated them from thousands of counter-demonstrators, as rain poured down.
The key theme of the LEGIDA protest was the New Year's Eve attacks in the western city of Cologne, where hundreds of women reported being groped and robbed by men described as Arabs and North Africans, in scenes that have shocked the country.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas earlier Monday warned that “those who now hound refugees – on the Internet or on the streets – have obviously just been waiting for the events of Cologne” and were now “shamelessly exploiting” the attacks.
“Refugees not welcome!” read one sign, showing a silhouette of three men armed with knives pursuing a woman, while another declared “Islam = terror”.
“Since New Year's Eve, nothing is like it was,” said one speaker, PEGIDA activist Tatjana Festerling, who decried the night's “sex jihad against women”.
“Asylum-Mummy Merkel had barely delivered her New Year's address to the people when in Cologne the first fireworks hit the cathedral and police,” she said.
“Then these Muslim refugees started their wholesale terror attack against German women, against blonde, white women,” she said to loud boos from the crowd.
Waving a sign declaring “State of injustice”, 44-year-old demonstrator Lukas Richter said “Merkel is breaching the constitution and must go,” and that “the government must close the borders and return all illegal migrants”.
He charged that the New Year's Eve attacks highlighted “the violence of foreigners in Germany that has existed for years”.
One sign mocked Merkel's “We can do it” motto on the refugee influx, saying “You can't even secure a train station”.