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    Participants take part in a demonstration called by anti-immigration group PEGIDA in Dresden on January 5

    Mass 'Islamization' Protests Across Germany Highlight East-West Divide

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    Cities across Germany witness demonstrations both for and against immigration.

    MOSCOW, January 06 (Sputnik) – Demonstrations took place in several German cities on Monday, in a show of feeling from thousands of Germans about perceived 'Islamization' and 'tolerance' in German society.

    "We don’t want to have our brightly lit cathedral to serve as the marvelous background for these demonstrations," the provost of Cologne cathedral, Norbert Feldhoff explained the decision to keep the buildings lights switched off amid anti-immigration protests held in the city, the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on Monday.

    According to the AP, the number of counter-demonstrators in Cologne on Monday evening outweighed by ten times the roughly 250 who turned out under the umbrella of the PEGIDA organization, otherwise known as the "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West." In Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg, 22,000 anti-PEGIDA protestors hit the streets, while in Berlin their number was 5,000, and succeeded in preventing a PEGIDA demonstration from taking their planned protest route from the city hall to the Brandenburg Gate.

    However, the agency reported that in the East German city of Dresden police estimated a crowd of around 18,000 people taking part in the anti-immigration protests, following 17,500 participants at Christmas, a steady increase from the few hundred who took part in October. Marchers wielding slogans including "We are the people," and "We will no longer be deceived," have progressively joined PEGIDA rallies since they first began drawing followers in October.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned people away from joining the protests in Dresden, remarking that the rallies’ organizers have "prejudice, coldness… even hatred in their hearts," in her New Year’s address to the nation. A PEGIDA organizer, Kathrin Oertel, responded to the criticism by referring to "political repression" rearing its head again in Germany, the BBC reported.

    The movement has been subject to much criticism in the German media along with reports of a strong undercurrent of support within German society. According to the BBC, Stern Magazine polled 1,000 Germans, around one in eight of which would be willing to join a PEGIDA march. In contrast, many establishments in Germany showed their support for anti-PEGIDA demonstrations, as many public and private buildings stayed in darkness so as not to highlight the anti-Islam rallies. One such firm, the Volkswagen manufacturing facility in Dresden stated it "stands for an open, free and democratic society," and said its plant would remain in the dark.

    Related:

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    Merkel Slams Far-Right Rhetoric Amid Growing Social Tension in Germany
    Tags:
    anti-Islam protests, PEGIDA, Angela Merkel, Germany
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