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Thousands march in anti-war Easter protests in Germany

Demonstrators across Germany have used the Easter holiday to protest against Germany's involvement in foreign wars and the weapons trade. The tradition of "Easter marches" goes back decades.

Thousands of Germans took to the streets on Saturday in the second day of the now traditional "Easter marches" against war and

weapons exports

in demonstrations expected to take place in more than 80 cities by the end of the holiday weekend.

The marches are not religious ones, but rather a peace movement unified under the motto "Fascism never again - war never again." The protestors also called for an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, newer types of arms like drones, and the presence of the German army in foreign countries.

On Saturday the action was concentrated in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with the city of Duisburg planning a three-day "Easter march" event. Similar demonstrations also took place in Berlin, Bremen and Kiel.

"We want no wars, we want no militarization, but rather a socially-conscious Europe," said Willi van Ooyen, a spokesman for the organizational team.

The major themes of the marches this year were the conflict in Ukraine, the civil war in Syria, and the threat of the terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS). The protestors fear that Germany, one of the world's largest exporters of weapons, will help increase the violence in these regions by delivering arms to the parties involved.

Last year, more than 30,000 marchers joined the Easter protests. The marches date back to the original anti-nuclear movement that sprung up in the late 1950s, influenced by the Aldermaston marches in Britain, and has seen various resurgences in popularity in the intervening decades. They were most popular between 1968 and 1983, when West Germans in the hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the Vietnam War and for nuclear disarmament.

es/rc (AFP, epd)

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