German Anti-Islam Rallies Get Record Turnout
Counter-protesters also come out in huge numbers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2015 1:33 AM CST
A participant at a rally by PEGIDA—Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West—holds a cross beside a German flag in Dresden last night.   (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
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(Newser) – Anti-"Islamization" and anti-immigration protesters in Germany turned out in record numbers last night despite a New Year's plea from Chancellor Angela Merkel to shun rallies organized by those with "prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts." Some 18,000 people attended a rally in Dresden, the biggest turnout since weekly protests began in October, but in other cities, rallies organized by PEGIDA—Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West—were heavily outnumbered by counter-protesters, reports Reuters.

In Cologne, the city's famous cathedral turned its lights off to show support for the counter-protesters, and in Berlin, the country's justice minister addressed a counter-protest, saying, "Germany is a country where refugees are welcome, and the silent majority must not remain silent but rather go out onto the streets and show itself." Anti-foreigner sentiment is on the rise in Germany, where the number of people seeking asylum jumped to 200,000 last year from around 50,000 in 2012, reports the New York Times, which notes that little of the influx has reached the Dresden area, where only around 2% of the state's population are foreigners.