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211 arrests after anti-migrant rioters rampage in Leipzig, Germany

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   Updated Jan. 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM

LEIPZIG , Germany, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- An anti-migrant rally in Leipzig, Germany, turned violent, leading to a window-smashing rampage, the burning of cars and 211 arrests, police said.

A peaceful rally sponsored by Legida, the local branch of Pegida, the national right-wing group opposing immigration, attracted thousands of people on a rainy Monday night, as did a leftist counter-rally opposing Pegida. The march coincided with the one-year anniversary of the creation of Legida.

A group broke away from the Legida demonstration and began smashing shop windows, burning cars and setting off fireworks that ignited the first floor of a building. Police said the leftists countered by setting a bus, chartered by Legida members, on fire.

Although property damage was extensive, there were no reports of injury.

Leipzig is a city known for peaceful protest, but officials fear anger and resentment against asylum seekers prompted by incidents on New Year's Eve in the city of Cologne will spread to other German cities. In Cologne, suspected immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East, including recently arrived refugees, were allegedly involved in thefts and sexual assaults of women during the new year's celebrations.

In Leipzig, there were shouting matches between those welcoming and those opposing refugees and calls from the right-wing crowd for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is supportive of open borders and immigration to Germany, to resign.

Motivated by the New Year's Eve assaults by migrants in Cologne, Merkel's government is working to draft legislation making expulsion of law-breaking asylum seekers easier. Merkel is facing what she has called the "most complex" issue of her administration, with more than 1 million refugees settling in Germany in 2015. Germans are split on the issue of welcoming refugees and cities are concerned about criminals within the ranks of the asylum seekers.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement: "we have agreed to make the deportation of criminal foreigners easier." He and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said any crime against property or against another person's bodily integrity, including sexual assault, would be sufficient grounds for expulsion from Germany.

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