GERMANS from across the political spectrum united on Monday evening to outnumber anti-Muslim protesters seeking to spread their influence to Berlin and elsewhere from their Dresden stronghold.
“We have to show the flag and say that right-wing extremism, xenophobia and anti-semitism have no place in our society,” said conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel before the marches began.
Left party marchers carried posters proclaiming: “Refugees welcome! Against racism and right-wing violence.”
The anti-Muslim current, which posed as being composed of concerned politically unaffiliated citizens but has been backed by far-right groups, calls itself Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida).
Their opponents not only marched across Hamburg and Munich, where Pegida had planned rallies, but also took to the streets of Stuttgart where 8,000 anti-racist protesters demonstrated and not a single pro-Pegida marcher showed their face.
Floodlights at major landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate, were switched off to show disapproval of the far-right marches. Cologne cathedral also turned off its floodlights as anti-Pegida marchers outnumbered their racist compatriots.
Cathedral provost Norbert Feldhoff said that switching off the lights was an attempt to make the Pegida demonstrators think twice about their protest.
“You’re taking part in an action that, from its roots and also from speeches, one can see is nazi, racist and extremist and you’re supporting people you really don’t want to support.”
Dresden held yet another protest against supposed Islamisation even though the city is host to hardly any Muslims or refugees in general, but even there anti-Pegida marchers showed their colours and the number of Pegida protesters was estimated at just 10,000 — a major drop since their last turnout of 17,500 before Christmas.
The marches there took place in darkness too, with Volkswagen turning off all the lights at its major factory.
Pegida protests were started by Dresden individual Lutz Bachmann with no known political background and have mostly targeted Muslims in their speeches.