Hundreds of protesters have been arrested outside a conference of the far-right German political party Alternative für Deutschland in Stuttgart after attempting to block the entrance to the event.
Around 400 people were detained outside the venue where up to 2,000 AfD members are expected to pass an explicitly anti-Islam manifesto, according to Agence France-Presse. The party wants to ban the burqa and minarets in Germany.
Riot police reportedly fired pepper spray at several hundred leftwing protesters who had temporarily blocked a nearby highway and burned tyres on the road leading to the venue. Around 1,000 officers are said to have been deployed.
Protesters chanted “refugees can stay, Nazis must go”, according to local media. Placards at the demonstration reportedly included one that read: “Your hate campaign pisses us off.” The protests delayed the start of the conference on Saturday.
“Police detained around 400 violent protesters who threw stones at officers and attacked them with fireworks,” said a police spokesman, Lambert Maute. “There were no injuries reported, only some minor incidents of eye irritation due to the pepper spray.”
Police said most of the demonstrators wore black clothes and some had masks.
AfD made substantial gains in German regional elections last month, entering state parliaments for the first time in three regions. It won 24.4% of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt, in former east Germany. Following the results, the party’s deputy leader, Alexander Gauland, told supporters at a rally that his party would “chase the old parties to hell”.
AfD’s gains came on the back of its opposition to the German government’s refugee policy, The party advocates the reinstatement of border checks and has said Angela Merkel’s decision to accept more than 1 million refugees over the last year was “catastrophic”.
Other party policies include a referendum on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the immediate suspension of sanctions on Russia.
In Austria this week the far-right Freedom party’s candidate won the first round of a presidential election, with 36% of the vote.