Protestors from across Germany marched through Berlin on Saturday against racism, xenophobia and the far right in one of the country’s biggest rallies in recent years.
The demonstration was a response to anti-immigration protests in several eastern cities over the summer and a rise in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party before a state election on Sunday.
The march was organised by a broad alliance of associations, labour unions, parties and rights groups including Amnesty International.
Marchers carried placards reading “Build bridges not walls”, “United against racism” and “We are indivisible - for an open and free society”.
The arrival of more than a million migrants, many from war zones in the Middle East, has boosted support for the AfD. AfD scored 12.6% at the election in Bavaria, long a stronghold of the conservative Christian Social Union, a member of the Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal coalition government. the radical rightwing AfD has entered state parliament as the third-largest party.
In August, far-right groups in the eastern city of Chemnitz clashed with police and chased people they believed to be foreign after the fatal stabbing of a German man blamed on two migrants. Similar protests took place in Dresden, Koethen and other eastern cities.
Merkel has accused AfD politicians of using the violent protests to stir up social tensions.
Nevertheless, the number of violent attacks on refugees and asylum shelters in Germany has fallen sharply in the first half of this year.