Thou­sands welcome new refugees to Ger­many

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets of the Ger­man city of Dres­den on Satur­day to send a mes­sage of welcome to refugees, af­ter a string of vi­o­lent anti-mi­grant protests in the re­gion.

Led by protesters hold­ing a huge ban­ner that read “Pre­vent the pogroms of to­mor­row to­day,” the crowds marched peace­fully through the eastern city un­der the watch of po­lice in riot gear.

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” they chanted.

Po­lice said 1,000 peo­ple joined the protest, which was called by the Anti-Nazi Al­liance, while or­ga­niz­ers put the num­bers at 5,000.

Dres­den is the strong­hold of the anti-Is­lam PEGIDA move­ment, whose demon­stra­tions drew up to 25,000 at the start of the year.

The eastern state of Sax­ony, of which Dres­den is the cap­i­tal, has suf­fered a se­ries of ugly an­timi­grant protests, with the gov­ern­ment say­ing Fri­day it was send­ing po­lice re­in­force­ments to the state.

“We’re here be­cause what is hap­pen­ing in Ger­many, par­tic­u­larly in Sax­ony, is un­bear­able,” Eva Mendl, a teacher who was among the de­mon­stra­tors, told AFP.

“Hat­ing refugees, who live here be­cause they can no longer live at home, be­cause they have been through a war ... that shouldn’t hap­pen in a rich coun­try,” she added.

Af­ter­wards, sev­eral hun­dred par­tic­i­pants in the rally gath­ered in the nearby town of Hei­de­nau, which has been the theatre of protests over the open­ing of a new refugee cen­ter.

Lo­cal author­i­ties had ini­tially banned all out­door public gath­er­ings in the town of 16,000 this week­end, fear­ing a re­peat of last week­end’s clashes be­tween po­lice and far-right protesters that left sev­eral dozen peo­ple in­jured.

But the Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tional Court on Satur­day struck down the ban, paving the way for the prorefugee rally, which passed off peace­fully, with refugees and their sup­port­ers danc­ing to­gether in the street.

Ger­many is strug­gling to ab­sorb a vast wave of asy­lum seek­ers that is ex­pected to reach a record 800,000 this year.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel was booed by far-right ac­tivists on a visi­tor to Hei­de­nau’s new refugee cen­ter this week, with about 200 peo­ple shout­ing “traitor, traitor” at her.

Merkel has vowed a ze­ro­tol­er­ance ap­proach to anti-mi­grant vi­o­lence.

Public opin­ion is largely be­hind her, with 60 per­cent of Ger­mans polled by public broad­caster ZDF say­ing that Europe’s big­gest econ­omy is ca­pa­ble of host­ing the asy­lum seek­ers.

AFP

(Top) Anti-racism protesters hold a ban­ner read­ing “Refugees welcome” dur­ing a rally in Dres­den, Satur­day, Aug. 29. (Above) Anti-racism protesters holds a ban­ner read­ing “Pre­vent to­day to­mor­row’s pogroms” (Heute die Pogrome von mor­gen ver­hin­dern) dur­ing a rally in Dres­den, strong­hold of the anti-Is­lam PEGIDA move­ment, whose demon­stra­tions drew up to 25,000 at the start of the year, Satur­day.

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