A left-wing protestor walks in front of police water cannons during a demonstration against a Nazi demonstration, which was forbidden by authorities, in Hamburg's Schulterblatt street in Schanzenviertel district, September 12, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
German police fired water cannons to disperse stone-throwing leftist protesters who tried to block a march by neo-Nazi activists in Leipzig on Saturday (December 12).
About 1,000 anti-fascist protesters set fire to rubbish bins and wooden barricades to prevent 200 supporters of small neo-Nazi groups from marching in the city.
Police said several people were hurt in the violence and the situation remains tense. They did not say whether those injured were civilians or policemen.
Officers trying to keep the demonstrators apart came under attack from the larger leftist crowd, police said.
"Today it exceeded everything that we could have expected, but in a negative way. It was huge violence which was used against the police," said Leipzig police spokesperson, Andreas Loepke.
"There was at some point no other possibility to calm the situation than to use water cannons and to spray pepper spray. There was no tear gas, the police here do not use that, but instead it was pepper spray. There was no other possible way to use the pepper spray than the way it was which mean that other people, who wanted to demonstrate peacefully were also affected," he added.
Locals were left in shock by the events.
"There were stones flying, there was tear gas, road signs were thrown around," said one woman.
"I think it is bad. I don't think you need to show your opinion with scuffles. I think it's bad. You can have an opinion and show this but you don't have to set bins on fire to do this," said a local man.
Leipzig and Dresden, another eastern city, have witnessed several demonstrations by anti-immigrant groups to protest Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door asylum policy. Such protests were often met with counter demonstrations.
Police did not say if the neo-Nazi march was to protest the government's asylum policy.
More than one million asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Germany this year.