Germans protest Neo-Nazi attacks on foreigners

November 15, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

BONN, Germany -- More than 100,000 people crowded int this city's main park yesterday to voice solidarity with Germany's foreign population in the latest of a series of mass protests in the country against right-wing extremist violence.

Rallying under the motto "Now Is the Time," a handful of international human rights activists joined an array of personalities, primarily from the German political left, to denounce attacks against foreigners and demand that the country's liberal law on political asylum be left unchanged.

"We need to do everything we can to make Germany a more generous and humane place in the 21st century," Beate Klarsfeld, a Paris-based Nazi hunter and human rights activist, told the crowd.

The relaxed mood in Bonn contrasted sharply with last Sunday's far larger demonstration against right-wing violence in Berlin, where leading government politicians, including Chancellor Helmut Kohl, were derisively whistled at, and the country's president, Richard von Weizsaecker, was pelted with eggs, fruit and rocks as he spoke to the crowd of at least 300,000.

The peaceful nature of the Bonn protest resulted partly from the absence of leading national politicians.

Indeed, the rally was as much a demonstration against government plans to tighten the country's liberal asylum law as it was a condemnation of xenophobia.

Mr. Kohl wants to tighten Germany's liberal constitutional provision that grants the right of political asylum to anyone who asks.

Much of the right-wing violence has been directed against asylum seekers, mainly from southeastern Europe and the Third World, who have taken advantage of Germany's liberal asylum law.

The opposition Social Democrats, are expected to formally back a law change at a special party conference this week, but only against the strenuous objections of its left wing.

In related developments, Mr. Kohl's interior minister, Rudolf Seiters, called yesterday for a ban on many of the right-wing extremist organizations that are not already forbidden to operate in Germany, while Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger proposed a ban on neo-Nazi symbols.

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