German police are investigating reports that a "neo-Nazi vigilante" patrol is now active in the streets of a Bavarian town reeling from a incident involving violent migrants.
Tensions in the town of Amberg have boiled over since last Saturday when a group of young "asylum-seeker" invaders attacked passersby in a series of random assaults that injured twelve.
According to the police, four suspects aged 17 to 19, who were under the influence of alcohol, indiscriminately harassed and beat pedestrians walking in the area of the town’s train station.
Twelve people, ranging in age from 16 to 42, sustained mostly minor injuries in the assaults. A 17-year-old was hospitalized for head wounds. When news broke that the suspects were nationals from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan, patriotic groups apparently took note.
The Nürnberg chapter of the nationalist party NPD posted photos on Facebook of its activists on the streets of Amberg, wearing red vests declaring “we create protective zones.”
Stay Connected with Us
In the post, dated January 1st, they claim to have patrolled the area where the attacks occurred as well as to have visited a local asylum shelter. Similar patrols have previously been seen before in Berlin.
A representative of the NPD told the public broadcaster DW that the vigilante campaign began in the middle of last year, with patrols focusing on “problem areas.” The Amberg patrol, he said, consisted of two groups of four-to-five unarmed people and was meant to show locals that there was “security again.” In the event of an incident, they plan to inform the police – unless the situation is deemed “acute” and requires a response, he added.
Amberg’s Mayor Michael Cerny told the local daily Mittelbayerische Zeitung that he was shocked to hear of the NPD initiative. “I can understand the uncertainty seen in some of the reactions of some Ambergers, but the hatred and the threats of violence from all over the country go way too far,” he remarked.
Cerny also told the German news agency DPA that he had forwarded a warning from the group to the police after he received a email demanding the mayor “send scouts” to the town. The Mittelbayerische Zeitung reported that the group called itself “Kraut/pol” and accused the authorities of failing completely in their email.
A police spokesperson confirmed that an investigation has been launched but stressed that police have yet to find concrete evidence of “vigilante activity” in the city inhabited by 44,000.
“We do not have a real right-wing scene in Amberg,” the mayor insisted in remarks to DPA. However, the news agency noted that in the recent state election, the anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) came in second in Amberg with 13.1% of the vote.
The AfD fraction leader in the Bavarian parliament, Katrin Ebner-Steiner, visited Amberg during which she met with police and concerned citizens to “get an idea of the situation in the city.”
The past week’s events have renewed the national debate over how to handle the so-called “asylum seekers” accused of violent crimes.
“The events in Amberg are very troubling. This is excessive violence, which we cannot tolerate,” emphasized Germany’s Interior Minister and leader of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) party Horst Seehofer. He has repeatedly called for the deportation of such offenders.
“If existing laws are not sufficient, they must be changed,” he told the daily Bild newspaper.