PEGIDA supporters demand Merkel's ouster
In light of the new year's eve incident where several women reported sexual assault allegedly at the hands of refugees, PEGIDA supporters took out a rally demanding Chancellor Angela Merkel's ouster. The protests which took place in several German cities, had protesters carrying banners that read "Rapefugees not welcome". They demanded that Merkel be removed from office due to her "dangerous" refugee policy.
Hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted in the square outside the Cologne railway station on new year's eve. Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers said witnesses had indicated that the perpetrators were of "Arab or North African origin." 121 reports of robbery and sexual assault were reported by women in the area. Two cases of rape were also reported.
An internal report on the incident, prepared by a senior German federal police officer was leaked to the German newspaper Der Spiegel. Authorities said most suspects' names still remain unknown, but they were clearly recognizable on pictures or video recordings. Police sources stated that the sexual assaults could have been a distraction from the perpetrators actual motive, which could have been robbery.
The police have registered 121 cases of sexual assault, robbery and 2 cases of rape. Police sources have stated that 16 suspects have been identified from footage; however, none are in custody yet. Sources stated that despite heavy police presence at the scene of the crime, they could not stop the perpetrators due to their large numbers and simultaneous assaults taking place.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas stated that "anyone who believes they can breach law and order must be punished - no matter where they come from." German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called upon all Germans to recognize the equal rights enjoyed by women and threatened foreign offenders with deportation. Authorities also stated there was no evidence linking refugees to the incident yet.
Members of Cologne's large Muslim community have joined the chorus condemning the string of assaults on women on New Year's Eve that have shocked Germany. Many Muslims also accused police of not doing enough to stop the attacks. Among members of a Facebook group for Syrian refugees in Germany, some called for the perpetrators to be strongly punished and deported immediately.
Soon after reports of the incident emerged in German media, anti-immigration campaigners claimed that it was a symbol of Angela Merkel's failed immigration policy. Sources suggested that German media was hesitant to report the incident out of fear of stirring far-right sentiments. Protests against immigrants intensified with sources stating that German tax payers should not have to pay for immigrants prison sentences.
Earlier last year, Chancellor Angel Merkel started Germany's 'open-door' policy for all immigrants flooding into Europe saying that Germany could accommodate up to 1.1 million refugees.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy was widely criticized by opposition members and protesters after a series of sexual assaults on women on New Years Eve in Cologne, Germany. Eye-witnesses have blamed the attacks on men who looked "Arabic or African." Right-wing parties in the country have renewed calls for caps on the number of refugees and asked Merkel to implement tighter border controls.
Cologne's police chief Wolfgang Albers has been removed from his post amid criticism of his force's handling of the mass sexual assaults in Cologne on new year's eve. His removal comes on the heels of several witnesses stating that the attacks were co-ordinated by 3-4 Arabic speaking middle aged men. Cologne police said that Albers is being sent into early retirement.