BERLIN, Germany – Germany’s carnival celebrations drew hundreds of thousands on to the streets Monday, despite fears of possible jihadist violence as the traditional “Mardi Gras” parade reflected themes of terror attacks and freedom of speech.
Authorities were on guard following the shootings in Copenhagen at the weekend and the cancellation of the carnival procession in the northern German city of Brunswick Sunday because of the threat of an “Islamist attack,” local police said.
Towns and cities in Catholic areas, particularly in the Rhine region, are traditionally Germany’s carnival — or “Fasching” — heartland, where drunken revelers in fancy dress crowd the streets to watch the colorful Rose Monday and Shrove Tuesday parades.
But authorities and Fasching fans insisted they would not be cowed by fears of possible terror attacks.
“We’re well-prepared,” said a police spokesman in the western city of Cologne, arguably the country’s carnival capital.
“We’re not really worried, even if we’re aware that carnival could potentially attract people who want to carry out an attack,” said one carnival-goer.
In Cologne, the theme of freedom of speech featured on some of the carnival floats which set off at their traditional starting time of 11:11 a.m.
One float depicted a clown watering a plant in the form of a pencil in reference to the shootings that killed 12 people at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January.
In the nearby city of Duesseldorf, a rival center of the Mardi Gras celebrations, a float featured a mock-up of a Charlie Hebdo front page with the words “seven million copies” — the number printed to meet unprecedented demand in the wake of the shootings.
Other floats depicted the fight against jihadist groups such as the Islamic State.
On Sunday, after Brunswick cancelled its carnival parade, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the country remained on high alert after the weekend shootings in Copenhagen.
“The authorities are closely examining every indication and piece of information they receive,” he said.
Following the end of the celebrations on Tuesday, the period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, traditionally a period of 40 days of fasting leading up to Easter.