BERLIN, Germany — Tens of thousands of people marched in Berlin Saturday in a protest against racism amid growing concern over xenophobic incidents in the east of the country.
Organizers said at least 242,000 people turned out for the rally. Police spoke of “several tens of thousands.”
“It’s already a success,” said Theresa Hartmann, spokeswoman for the #unteilbar (indivisible) movement, who said they had only been expecting 40,000 people to turn up.
The marchers walked in balmy weather through the city center before gathering at the Brandenburg gate where a number of German groups performed.
They shouted anti-Nazi slogans and carried placards in favor of rescue missions on the Mediterranean Sea and others saying “More love, less hate” and “No room for Nazis.”
The #unteilbar collective, made up of a number of activist groups and individuals, has already staged demonstrations in the northern city of Hamburg and Munich in the south, that attracted thousands.
They are supported by trades unions, religious organizations, and some charities. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), posted a message of support on Twitter.
The march was partly in response to the rise of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Building on the backlash to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit more than a million refugees in 2015 and 2016, it won its first parliamentary seats in elections last year.
At the end of August a far-right demonstration in the eastern city of Chemnitz after the murder of a German that was blamed on a refugee degenerated into attacks on foreigners.
Early in October, German police arrested six men on suspicion of having taken part in the attacks, describing them as members of a far-right “terrorist” group.