Police in Cologne, Germany, are investigating dozens of reports of sexual assault and at least one rape by a group of roughly 1,000 men who rampaged through a New Year’s Eve celebration on the city streets. The attacks, described as “unprecedented,” were perpetrated by men who appeared to be of “Arab” or North African background, police said, sparking claims by right wing groups that they were committed by recently arrived refugees.
Police said they have received about 35 complaints of sexual assault following the New Years celebration, along with 80 reports of pickpocketing. Some women experienced both, and one person reported a rape, they said. The suspects were described as groups of between two and 20 men, most of whom looked to be between 18 and 35 years old. The attacks occurred after the men began setting off and throwing fireworks into the crowd. The video above, broadcast by RT’s Ruptly, doesn’t show the sexual assaults, but does show a chaotic scene with fireworks going off and police wading in to make arrests.
Reuters reports that the attacks have spurred right wing politicians to call on Chancellor Angela Merkel to close the country’s borders, even as Henriette Reker, the mayor of Cologne says there’s no evidence the attackers were refugees:
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has gained in polls in part at Merkel’s expense thanks to a campaign against refugees, said she should close the border.
“Mrs Merkel, is Germany ‘colorful and cosmopolitan’ enough for you after the wave of crimes and sexual attacks?” tweeted AfD chief Frauke Petry.
Merkel told Reker in a phone call the attacks deserved a tough response.
“Everything must be done to investigate those responsible as quickly and completely as possible and punish them, regardless of where they are from,” she said, according to her spokesman.
As police continue to investigate, The Local Germany reports, social media users are accusing politicians, law enforcement and the media of engaging in a cover-up because of the ethnicity of the suspects. One politician from Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union is making news for tweeting “It can’t go on like this” and calling for “secure borders” and “intensified deportations.”