Berlin, Jan 11: Over 35,000 people holding "We are Charlie" placards have marched through the eastern German city of Dresden in a counter rally against the recent anti-Islam demonstrations, almost double the number that participated in the last week's protest.
"Thirty-five thousand people attended this event, and they made clear that they love this city and that they're proud of this city, and that this is a tolerant and cosmopolitan city," said Stanislaw Tillich, State Premier of Saxony.
"Almost double the number of participants in the demonstrations against "Islamisation of Germany" joined the rival rally yesterday," he said.
The rally was organised jointly by the state government of Saxony and the city of Dresden to take a strong stand against right-wing group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) demonstrations, which have been drawing new followers every week since they began at the end of September.
Tillich, however, deplored the demonstrations organised every Monday by PEGIDA as "politically unbearable and without any decency". "One cannot talk seriously with those who foment hatred against foreigners, refugees and asylum-seekers," he said.
As the protesters assembled in front of Dresden's Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), they observed a minute's silence in memory of the 17 victims of the terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a supermarket in Paris.
They carried placards with the slogan "We are Charlie" and "Dresden Against Racism". Around 18,000 people took part in the demonstration last Monday, according to police.
Tillich called for greater efforts to integrate refugees, asylum-seekers and other groups into the mainstream of the society.
He said respect and tolerance towards migrants, freedom of expression and adherence to democratic basic principles are important prerequisites for integration.
The counter rally sends a strong signal that the people of city are standing together and "will not allow ourselves to be divided by spreading hatred," Dresden's Mayor Helma Orosz said.
Dresden is more than a place where people take to the streets every week out of fear of other religions and other cultures, she said.