Berlin: Hundreds of thousands protest against far-right

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – More than 200,000 people marched in Berlin on Saturday against racism and far-right populism in Germany.

The rally under the motto “For an open and free society: Solidarity instead of exclusion,” was organized by a recently formed civilian initiative “Unteilbar’ (Indivisible), backed by a broad collection of NGOs and political parties.

“This is the biggest demonstration against the far-right in recent German history,” said Margarita Tsomou, one of the organizers, adding that about 242,000 people came out for the demonstration.

Huge crowds packed the main avenues in Berlin’s city center on Saturday, stretching from Alexanderplatz through the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column.

Demonstrators carried posters with slogans such as “No place for Nazis,” “Racism is no alternative,” “No to smear campaigns against Muslims,” and “Never again fascism.”

Saturday’s rally came amid growing worries over the rise of racism and far-right populism in Germany.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and neo-Nazi groups have held anti-immigration rallies in eastern cities in recent months where mobs hunted down people deemed "foreign looking" and attacked restaurants owned by migrants.

Voicing explicitly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, the AfD last year scored record gains in federal elections and entered parliament for the first time.

On Sunday’s state elections in Bavaria, the AfD is expected to pick up more than 10 percent of the vote.