SHAFAQNA – Thousands of Germans have held demonstrations in several cities across the country to express opposition to the right-wing anti-Islam and immigration rallies in the country.
The demonstrators took to the streets in German cities including Berlin, Stuttgart, Cologne, Rostock, and Dresden on Monday to slam racism and xenophobia.
The demos came in the wake of weekly rallies organized by the so-called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) in the eastern city of Dresden over the last three months.
German carmaker, Volkswagen, shut off the spotlights on its Dresden plant in protest, and said in a statement that the company “stands for an open, free, and democratic society.”
In the southwestern city of Stuttgart, some 5,000 people took to streets, according to police, while the organizers put the number at 8,000.
Mayor of Stuttgart, Fritz Kuhn, said the large protest in his city sent out a clear message in support of integration.
Kuhn also warned the PEGIDA supporters not to turn into “the followers and tools of right-wing radical neo-Nazis.”
Meanwhile in Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city, protesters carried banners that read “Together for a tolerant and colorful Cologne” and “Diversity not Uniformity.”
Many buildings in the city also switched off their lights in protest, including Cologne Cathedral, which is a famous German landmark.
In the capital Berlin, over 5,000 people marched towards the Brandenburg Gate waving banners of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Left Party.
During her New Year address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to turn away from PEGIDA, calling some of its members “racists” that are full of hatred.
In December, German President Joachim Gauck called for sympathy and openness towards refugees in the country.