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Right-wing protesters light candles during a protest in Koethen, Germany, on September 16.

More than 1,000 far-right demonstrators marched against Germany’s immigration policies in the eastern town of Koethen, monitored by a similar number of police officers and about 500 counterprotesters.

The anti-migrant protesters on September 16 held banners saying, "Patriotism is not a crime" and "Enough, Frau Merkel -- she has to go."

Many critics see Chancellor Angela Merkel’s relatively liberal policies toward immigrants in recent years as the cause of violence blamed on arrivals from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, African countries, and elsewhere.

Police said the protests in Koethen, a city of about 26,000 people, were mostly peaceful.

Water cannons and mounted police were on hand to keep the peace between far-right groups and the counterprotesters.

A local university warned students to avoid what it described as the site of the "potentially violent demonstrations."

The rally in Koethen was the latest in a number of far-right marches that have gripped eastern Germany in recent weeks.

Far-right organizations, including the anti-Islam group PEGIDA, called the protest over the death of a 22-year-old German man in Koethen a week ago.

Police say the man, who had a heart condition, intervened in a fight between several Afghan migrants there.

According to the authorities, the man was punched in the face and subsequently died of a heart attack.

Two Afghan men, aged 18 and 20, have been arrested.

Officials have expressed concern that the incident could lead to physical attacks on migrants of the kind seen in the eastern city of Chemnitz following the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old man in August.

Two men -- a Syrian and an Iraqi -- were arrested over the killing in Chemnitz, while another migrant is being sought by police.

Police say a 17-year-old Afghan man was attacked by Germans in the town of Hasselfelde late on September 15.

In a separate incident, three Somalis were attacked on September 15 by a group of Germans in the nearby town of Halberstadt.

With reporting by dpa and AP
Serbian Prime Minister, Belgrade Mayor Attend Gay Parade
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Serbia's prime minister and the mayor of Belgrade have joined several hundred lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists and their supporters in the center of Belgrade for a gay-pride parade.

Several hundred revelers marched from Slavija Square to Students Square on September 16, with the city center sealed off by police, for the final event of Belgrade Pride Week 2018.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the capital's new mayor, Zoran Radojcic, were among the participants.

Brnabic, the first openly gay prime minister in the Balkan region and the first Serbian woman in the top job, attended the event last year, along with the ministers of labor and state administration, as well as the city's mayor at the time.

The rally ended without a major security incident at around 4 p.m. local time, RFE/RL correspondents at the scene said.

After the march, dozens of people joined the rally participants to watch a pop concert at Students Square.

Ahead of this year's march, around 30 people gathered in Belgrade's center to protest against the event and were blocked by police officers about 1 kilometer from Slavija Square.

The demonstrators held Orthodox Christian banners and crosses, and sang religious songs. Some of them appeared to be Orthodox monks.

Protesters against the Belgrade Pride parade were stopped by police on September 16.
Protesters against the Belgrade Pride parade were stopped by police on September 16.

A police source told RFE/RL that three protesters were detained shortly before the LGBT rally began.

About 100 people attended a separate gay-pride march in Belgrade in June that went off without major incident.

Belgrade Pride Week 2018, held under the slogan "Reci da!" -- or "Say Yes!" in English -- featured films, exhibitions, conferences, and debates.

Organizers of the events put forward a list of demands for the country’s LGBT community, including improved official documents for transgender persons, the adoption of a law on registered partnerships, an educational reform to remove discriminatory content from school textbooks, and better protection from hate crimes.

Activists say anti-LGBT prejudice remains a widespread problem in Serbia.

The first attempt to organize a pride parade in Belgrade was in 2001, when its participants were attacked by sports fans, ultranationalist groups, and nationalist party sympathizers.

In 2010, parade participants were protected by police, but throughout the city there were riots and severe clashes between police and right-wing hooligans who opposed the march.

Because of the violence, for the following several years the authorities banned the parade, citing the security risks for participants.

However, parades were held in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 without serious incident but safeguarded by thousands of police officers.

With reporting by Balkan Insight

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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