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Germany

Germany's Easter march protesters set out to promote peace

Campaigners across Germany have been on the streets to take part in the annual Easter tradition of marching for peace. Protesters called for, among other things, an end to arms exports and uranium enrichment for weapons.

Some 80 Easter march events were scheduled to take place across Germany over the Easter weekend, according to the movement's central offices in Frankfurt. Organizers hope that some 10,000 people will take part in protests spanning four days until Easter Monday.

A series of smaller demonstrations got under way on Friday - ahead of larger events on Saturday and Sunday - with vigils and marches taking place in several towns and cities.

German pacifists take part in an Easter peace march

The Easter marches have taken place in Germany for decades, but have British origins

In Chemnitz, some 250 people marched for peace and an end to violence, calling for the government to rethink its foreign policy and approach to dealing with refugees. Although Germany has opened its door to refugees from the Syrian civil war, some left-wing groups believe the country is not doing enough.

Hubert Gintschel, a spokesman for the Chemnitz Peace Initiative, called on politicians to focus on peace "rather than to solve every conflict by military means."

A group of some 50 people gathered in Stuttgart to remember victims of drone bombings. Activists laid a wreath outside a US military headquarters in the city.

Refugee crisis as a focus

Meanwhile, event organizers said some 200 people gathered outside a uranium enrichment facility in Gronau, to protest again nuclear arms.

Demonstrations are set to take place in Germany's largest cities throughout the weekend, including Berlin, Kiel, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Wiesbaden, Mannheim, Würzburg and Munich.

Organizers this year say their aim is to draw attention to Germany's responsibility for contributing to the worldwide refugee crisis, not least through its

export of weapons

globally.

By value of weaponry, Germany is the world's fifth-largest arms exporter, according to the

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

It lags behind only the US, Russia, China and France.

Philosopher and Nobel literature laureate Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a committed pacifist and co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain, helped start the Easter peace marches in 1958.

The inaugural march went from London to Britain's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston. German pacifists and anti-nuclear campaigners adopted the idea, and have kept the tradition going until this day.