The square around the Cologne Cathedral was plunged into darkness Monday evening after the historical landmark in western Germany shut down its lights in a silent protest of weekly rallies in Dresden against the so-called “Islamization” of Europe.
More than 30,000 Germans Protest against Anti-Islam RalliesThe symbolic act came as thousands of Germans demonstrated in Cologne and several other cities against the ongoing protests by the group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the so-called “Islamization” of the West, or PEGIDA, which attracted its biggest crowd yet in Dresden on Monday night.
Cologne Cathedral provost Norbert Feldhoff, told n-tv that shutting down 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-ist, racist and extremist,” he said on n-tv. “And you’re supporting people you really don’t want to support.”
Only about 250 PEGIDA supporters showed up in Cologne, as compared to thousands of counter-demonstrators. Similarly in Berlin, police said some 5,000 counter-demonstrators blocked about 300 PEGIDA supporters from marching along their planned route from city hall to the Brandenburg Gate. Another 22,000 anti-PEGIDA demonstrators rallied in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg, the dpa news agency reported.
Carrying signs with slogans like “wake up” the crowd chanted “we are the people” and “lying press” as they passed television cameras on Monday.
In uncharacteristically frank words in her New Year’s address, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to stay away from the Dresden rallies.
When the PEGIDA demonstrators chant “we are the people,” Merkel said “they actually mean ‘you don’t belong because of your religion or your skin.”