German official slams police tolerance of hate speech

BERLIN (AP) — A senior official in Saxony has criticized police for failing to act against hate speech in the east German state, a stronghold of both the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement and the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany.

Martin Dulig, Saxony’s deputy governor, said in an interview published Thursday that police should step in when speakers use podiums at political rallies to incite hatred.

“I sometimes ask myself, too, whether there’s greater sympathy for PEGIDA and AfD among the police in Saxony than among the average population,” he told German weekly Die Zeit.

Dulig, a member of the center-left Social Democrats who govern Saxony together with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, suggested police leadership in the state was partly to blame, citing a recent incident in the town of Clausnitz, where a mob blocked a bus carrying migrants and shouted “Go home!”

No protesters were arrested and a local police chief told reporters that the migrants were partly to blame for the incident.

Saxony — the birthplace of PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West — has seen a sharp rise in far-right attacks against migrants over the past year.

In the fourth quarter of 2015 there were 50 attacks against migrant homes in the state, compared with 15 in the same three-month period of 2014. The number of migrants coming to Germany has also increased sharply over the past year.

Opposition lawmakers in the federal Parliament have accused state officials of failing to confront far-right extremists in Saxony for fear of losing support from conservative-minded voters.