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Hanover rally against radical Islam ends calmly

A rally in Hanover called by self-professed hooligans opposed to radical Islamism has drawn a smaller than expected turnout. Authorities had set tight controls following a Cologne rally last month that turned violent.

Officials had expected around 5,000 hooligans and right-wing extremists to turn out to the rally, held on a square near the main train station in the northern German city of Hanover on Saturday.

However, a police spokesman told a DW reporter at the scene that only an estimated 2,600 had turned up. He said that a counter-demonstration had also taken place only "a stone's throw away.

A few hours after it had begun, DW's Alexander Drechsel saw the protesters from the hooligans' gathering disperse:

Unlike a similar demonstration in Cologne on October 26, which ended with pitched battles between groups of hooligans and police, Hannover's rally took place under severe restrictions meant by authorities to prevent a repeat of the violence.

Body searches

Prior to Saturday's demonstration, local authorities had announced that each individual demonstrator would be subject to a body search by police, and that alcohol was banned at the rally.

All forms of pyrotechnics were also prohibited, and the demonstrators were not allowed to march through the streets of Hanover.

Last month, Cologne demonstrators initially marched peacefully, but some protesters later threw beer bottles and ignited firecrackers at police.

High police presence

DW's reporter said that the high police presence and the restrictions in Hanover appeared to have worked.

"There's no violence, and the scene is rather quiet, despite thousands of police, some mounted on horseback. There are also massive vehicles armed with water cannon." Drechsel when the demonstration was still ongoing.

Police later reported a few isolated incidents of violence between hooligans and counter-demonstrators.

Like last month's Cologne gathering, the Hanover rally was organized by a group calling itself "Hooligans against Salafists" (HoGeSa).

It is an alliance of violent soccer fans and right-wingers who say they fear the rise of radical Islam in Europe.

Court upholds freedom of assembly

Earlier in the week, police had attempted to get the Hanover's local authorities to ban Saturday's demonstration, entitled "Europe against the terror of Islamism."

HoGeSa won the right to go ahead with the demonstration, after a district court overturned the initial ban, citing Article Eight of the German constitution which is supposed to guarantee freedom of assembly.

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