35,000 protest in Germany against anti-Islamic rallies: organisers
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets Saturday in the German city of Dresden in a rally against the anti-Islamic marches that are expected to keep growing after this week's jihadist violence in France.
Organisers said they estimated the turn-out at around 35,000, nearly double the 18,000 counter-demonstrators who protested last Monday against the weekly marches held in east Germany by the so-called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (PEGIDA)".
The movement opposes what it claims to be the Islamisation of Europe.
"I didn't come because I am against the people going to the PEGIDA demonstrations, but because I am not afraid of people whose skin colour or customs are ... different than mine," Dresden's conservative Mayor Helma Orosz said.
During the counter-protest, which included a minute of silence for the 17 victims in France, demonstrators carried signs emblazoned with the words "Help refugees", "We all laugh in the same language" and "Germany is for everyone".
Launched in October with a march of just 500 people, PEGIDA's rallies have since swelled rapidly, stirring anguished debate in Germany.
Many observers of the rise of the far-right populist movement now expect it to seek to make political capital from the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and its bloody aftermath.
"The Paris attacks will without doubt affect Dresden and give the PEGIDA movement even more influence," political scientist Werner Patzelt of Dresden Technical University told AFP previously.
"It is likely that the 20,000-mark for demonstrators will be reached Monday," he predicated of the group's next march.
PEGIDA has called on supporters to wear black armbands "as a sign of mourning for the terror victims in Paris" to the upcoming rally on Monday.
© 2015 AFP