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Counter-protests drown out 'Merkel must go' rally in Berlin

Antifascist groups had organized rallies against a far-right protest in the German capital. Police said counter-protesters outnumbered the right-wing demonstrators, who called for the German chancellor to leave office.

Up to 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest a rally by the far-right group Hooligans against Salafists (Hogesa).

Berlin police said "several hundred" people participated in the counter-protests organized by "Berlin against Nazis" and Germany's Left Party.

At one point, the protesters held a "noise" competition to drown out the far-right demonstrators, who gathered under the banner "Merkel must go."

Participants held posters with statements such as "No Nazi march in Berlin" and "No to AfD," a reference to the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Authorities said up to 600 people participated in the "Merkel must go" rally, many of them hooligans, AfD supporters and members of the far-right community.

Germany has witnessed an increase in right-wing sentiments, in part as a response to Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for refugees.

Some 1 million migrants arrived in Germany since 2015, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The AfD, which campaigns on an anti-migrant platform, saw a surge in support ahead of key parliamentary elections slated for September, though some of that support appears to be dissolving in recent polls. They have also lashed out Islam, saying it has no place in German society.

The rightwing protesters called on the German chancellor to step aside, equating her to former leaders

The rightwing protesters called on the German chancellor to step aside, equating her to former leaders

ls/sms (dpa, epd)