About 20,000 people took to the streets in Cologne to protest against PEGIDA, which forced the group's supporters to cancel their march. The lights on Cologne Cathedral, the city’s major landmark, were switched off as part of anti-PEGIDA campaign.
In Berlin, 5,000 anti-PEGIDA demonstrators gathered, calling for more tolerance. Munich also joined in the counter demonstrations with around 1,000 people collecting in the Sendlinger Tor area of the city, while in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg, this figure reportedly reached 22,000, according to the DPS news agency.
The controversial PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) movement was founded in Dresden in October 2014. The group drew support from thousands of Germans, including far-right groups and ordinary citizens, who are concerned with increases in immigration. The number of those following the movement, which was originally in the hundreds, rapidly snowballed. In December, over 17,000 marched in Dresden in support of PEGIDA.
ANTI-IMMIGRATION MOVEMENT DENOUNCED
Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt denounced the group and claimed that Germany “should remain open to the world and tolerant,” while Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that PEGIDA “casts a shadow on the country’s image.”
Among others who signed an anti-PEGIDA petition are former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, party leaders, clergy, a number of actors, TV presenters and experts.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned the population against PEGIDA in her New Year address, saying the movement's supporters had hatred in their hearts.