A record 25,000 people have joined an anti-Islamization rally in Dresden, Germany, called in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, BBC News reprots.
The protesters defied calls from German politicians to stay away from the Pegida organization’s rally.Elsewhere across Germany, tens of thousands of people joined anti-Pegida rallies.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will attend a protest organized by Muslim groups in Berlin on Tuesday.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas was one of several leading politicians to urge the Pegida march organizers in Dresden not to “misuse” the deadly attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.
However, the rally in the eastern city went ahead, drawing a record 25,000.
Marchers carried banners expressing solidarity with the French cartoonists, killed by Islamists in Paris.A minute’s silence in memory of the dead was also expected to be held.
Pegida – Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West – has organized a number of Dresden rallies, and drew 18,000 a week ago.
The anti-Pegida rallies on Monday, Jan 12, drew 7,000 in Dresden, 30,000 in Leipzig, 20,000 in Munich and 19,000 in Hanover.
In a series of interviews, Maas accused the anti-Islamist group of hypocrisy. “In Dresden people want to remember with a black ribbon the victims in Paris – those same people whom a week ago they were calling the ‘lying press’,” he said.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also criticized the organizers while Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer called on them to stop the marches for the foreseeable future.
The chancellor, who was meeting Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday was set to take part in a demonstration against the French murders in Berlin planned by Muslim groups on Tuesday, her spokesman said.
“Islam is part of Germany,” said Merkel on Monday. “I am the chancellor of all Germans.”
The growth of the anti-Islamization marches over recent weeks has worried Germany’s political leadership.
Tensions were further raised at the weekend when arsonists attacked a Hamburg newspaper that republished controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which had originally been printed by Charlie Hebdo in 2006.
The men who attacked Charlie Hebdo last week were said to have shouted out that they had avenged the Prophet for the cartoons.