Kolbe said the march was peaceful until right-wing populists began showing their anti-Islam caricatures, including one by Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who created one of the Muhammad drawings which set off global unrest in 2006. One pro-NRW member, Kolbe told Spiegel Online, climbed onto the shoulders of a comrade in order to hold the placard above a police vehicle positioned so as to block the view. "The Pro-NRW people very deliberately provoked," said Kolbe.
Still, he said, it was clear that many of the counter-demonstrators had come prepared for violence. Several more knives were found among the 109 people arrested, along with pepper sprays. The vast majority of those taken into custody, said Kolbe, were not from Bonn but had traveled from elsewhere in the country to take part in the demonstration. Once the violence started, he added, several counter-demonstrators began tearing up the yards of nearby houses in the search for projectiles, even demolishing a decorative fountain in the process. "When it comes to the violence," said Kolbe, "we believe that most of those involved were Salafists.
Germany's Salafists have recently attracted significant public attention due to an on-going campaign to distribute millions of free copies fo the Koran throughout the country. More ominously, however, the group, which strives to adhere to the pure form of Islam practiced by the Prophet Muhammad, has shown a readiness to promote violence. Salafist connections with jihad groups are not uncommon and the man who shot to death two U.S. servicemen in 2010 was likewise linked to the group.
Moderate Muslims in Germany have consistently sought to distance themselves from the Salafists. On Monday, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany -- one of many such groups which represent a portion of Germany's Muslim population -- issued a statement condemning the Saturday violence. "Reacting to provocation with violence is not acceptable for peace-loving Muslims because it is un-Islamic and, more than anything, plays into the hands of the right wing," according to the statement.
Campaigning, Pro-NRW Style
Indeed, the violence of Saturday -- coming on the heels of a similar confrontation between Salafists and Pro-NRW last week -- would seem exactly what Pro-NRW had been hoping for. The stridently anti-Muslim party has spent years struggling, and failing, to attract the kind of attention comparable right-wing populist parties have achieved in virtually all of Germany's neighboring countries. Sunday parliamentary elections in the group's home state have spurned them to once again try to attract votes.
And provocation has been the cornerstone of that effort. "It is of course part of the campaign," Pro-NRW spokesman Markus Wiener told Spiegel Online on Monday. "We are a party that is critical of Islam and we wanted to show our standpoint."
To do so, the group launched a "Muhammad caricature contest" earlier this spring and is now parading the "winners" in front of area mosques and other Muslim establishments. The move, of course, is cynically calculated to attract the kind of attention the formerly unknown Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten received after it published similar caricatures in 2005.
Whether the strategy has been successful will become clear once the votes are counted on Sunday. In the meantime, the Pro-NRW parade of provocation will continue. Bielefeld police had sought to ban a planned right-wing march in the city on Monday, but a court intervened and allowed the Pro-NRW demonstration to go forward. Some 15 anti-Muslim marchers took to the streets, along with 400 counter-demonstrators. This time, there were no immediate reports of violence.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Spiegel Online journalist and author Charles Hawley in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-right-wing-populists-provoke-salafist-violence-in-bonn-a-831810.html