An estimated 2,000 far-right LEGIDA supporters have taken to the streets of Leipzig to protest against the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne.
Members of its sister-group, the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement, joined the march.
The acronym PEGIDA in German stands for patriots against the Islamisation of the western world. Local branches usually substitute the initial of their own town at the beginning.
Brandishing signs with expressions such as “Merkel, take your Muslims with you and get lost,” many chanted “Merkel needs to go,” the main slogan of the event.
It was organised to coincide with the first anniversary of LEGIDA.
While Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently toughened her stance on migrant arrivals, she has repeatedly refused demands to put a cap on the number entering Germany.
One protester spoke about why he had attended the march:
“What has been making us angry in the last few weeks and months is the whole situation with the foreigners and how the authorities are handling it. Me and many others too think this will come to a bad end.”
A similar number of counter-protesters also gathered, officials confirmed.
One marcher said:
“It is important not to generalise, but it’s also important that we all participate in making integration work. We must not take it lightly, but at the same time, we shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush.”
A police spokesperson said elsewhere in Leipzig some 250 right-wingers had been arrested for setting off fireworks, setting bins on fire and damaging property.