Some 10,000 protestors in Cologne have staged a counter-demonstration against an anti-Islam rally that drew 1,000 people. Police were prepared for violence, but the day passed with only a few minor incidents.
The two groups of protestors squared off on opposite sides of the Deutz train station in Cologne on Sunday, separated by the tracks and some 3,500 police officers.
The anti-Islam group Hooligans Against Salafists (HoGeSa) were able to bring out about 1,000 supporters, who remained penned in at a fixed location and were searched by police for guns, weapons and alcohol as they entered the area.
The Cologne chapter of "anti-Islamization" movement PEGIDA, which has its base in the eastern city of Dresden, also joined HoGeSa.
The counter-demonstration, composed of far-left activists, civil society groups, politicians and average citizens, drew some 10,000 people opposed to HoGeSa's anti-Islam, anti-immigration stance.
Banners among the crowd read "No person is illegal" and "Refugees welcome" in what was largely a festive and friendly environment.
In the afternoon police fired water cannon on a group of far-left activists throwing stones and fireworks, to prevent them from attacking HoGeSa protestors. Several leftists were arrested in the incident, and a police officer was lightly cut after leftists threw stones at his patrol car. Five hooligans were also injured in a scuffle near the train station, police said.
Police had tried to have the HoGeSa demonstration banned, citing last year's violence on October 26, in which at least 44 police officers were injured. But a court on Wednesday ruled against prohibiting the rally, stipulating only that it had to take place at a fixed location rather than include a march through the streets.
Police did, however, manage to have the HoGeSa demonstration moved from last year's location at the main railway station to the Deutz district on the other side of the river.
DW's Milan Gagnon has been reporting from Cologne.
Growing far-right violence
Up to one million refugees are expected to reach Germany this year from conflict-ridden Middle Eastern countries, while several right-wing groups are protesting against their arrival.
Far-right violence in Germany has seen a sharp rise in the past few weeks. The country's security officials have warned that asylum seekers, those who help them, and pro-immigration politicians could all become the targets of xenophobic crimes.
The rally in Cologne comes nearly a week after Henriette Reker, a candidate for mayor of the city, was stabbed by a man upset over pro-immigration policy. Reker won the election.
cw/tj (AFP, dpa)