Monday's marches are the latest in a series of demonstrations organised by protest group Pegida
The lights were switched off on Cologne Cathedral last night in protest at anti-Islamisation rallies taking place in the city and across Germany.
Protest group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida), called on people to march in cities including Berlin and Kassel, as well as Cologne.
Speaking to n-tv, Fr Norbert Feldhoff, dean of Cologne Cathedral, made an appeal to Pegida supporters: “You’re taking part in an action that, from its roots and also from speeches, one can see is Nazi-ist, racist and extremist. And you’re supporting people you really don’t want to support.”
Prior to the marches, he explained the decision to switch off the cathedral’s lights: “Pegida is made up of an astonishingly broad mix of people, ranging from those in the middle of society to racists and the extreme Right wing. By switching off the floodlighting we want to make those on the march stop and think. It is a challenge: consider who you are marching alongside.”
According to the BBC, the Pegida protest in Cologne attracted only 250 people, while thousands took part in a counter-demonstration. In Berlin police say that 5,000 anti-Pegida protestors blocked a march by hundreds of Pegida supporters, while, according to the DPS news agency, around 22,000 people protested against Pergida in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg.
However, in Dresden 18,000 reportedly took part in an anti-immigration rally, with 3,000 people gathering for a counter-demonstration.
Monday’s protests are the latest in a series of Pegida-organised demonstrations in Germany. The German chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the marches in her New Year message.