Clashes erupt at German far-right rally

German police fired tear gas and water cannons to keep apart groups of far-right supporters and thousands of counter demonstrators trying to hinder their rally in an eastern city on Saturday, police said.

Last Updated: Feb 20, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Berlin: German police fired tear gas and
water cannons to keep apart groups of far-right supporters and
thousands of counter demonstrators trying to hinder their
rally in an eastern city on Saturday, police said.

Hundreds of leftist protesters in Dresden tried to break
through police barriers, hurling rocks and fireworks at
officers who responded with baton charges, tear gas and pepper
spray.

About 1,000 far-right supporters were at three
court-approved rallies or on their way there early today
afternoon, police said.

A far larger number of counter demonstrators supported by
unions, democratic parties and civil society groups were in
the city trying to prevent them from going ahead, police
added. Three protesters were arrested.

Dresden authorities said earlier this week it expects at
least 3,000 far-right supporters from Germany and elsewhere
and around 20,000 counter demonstrators to gather.

The annual protest rally constitutes one of Europe`s
biggest far-right gatherings, usually held earlier in February
to commemorate the anniversary of a deadly Allied bombing at
the end of World War II.

Raids by British and US bombers on Feb. 13-14, 1945 set
off firestorms and destroyed the centuries-old city centre. In
2008, a panel commissioned by German state officials found
that the firebombing killed up to 25,000 people, lower than
scholars` previous estimates.

City officials, state politicians, unions and civil
society groups each year hold rallies -- hugely outnumbering
the far-right supporters -- protesting far-right attempts to
exploit the city`s painful past.

PTI