Easter marches draw thousands around Germany | News | DW | 06.04.2015
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Easter marches draw thousands around Germany

People across Germany have taken to the streets, usually of major cities, over the Easter weekend to campaign for world peace. The tradition dates back to the UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1950s.

Organizers of around 80 demonstrations across Germany said on Monday that they were largely satisfied with the turnout, estimating it to total up to 10,000 people.

"The Easter marches are not the roll call for the peace movement," said Kristian Golla from the Network of the German Peace Movement when asked if the turnout was disappointing. "We are satisfied; the numbers are roughly representative of last year's."

Ostermarsch 2015 in Frankfurt am Main

'Yes to private correspondence, no to secret service snooping,' reads the placard on the right

Organizers counted around 1,500 participants in Berlin, another 400 in Stuttgart, 130 in Bonn, and around 250 people on an arranged bike tour of the Ruhr region - as well as traditionally colorful displays from around 800 demonstrators in Hamburg (pictured at top of story).

"The Easter marches have again shown that the subject of peace is important to many people and that the movement is lively and wide awake politically," Golla said. "Even in rainy weather, people took to the streets to speak out against military solutions and in favor of peaceful ones."

Weapons exports, foreign deployments under fire

The organization hailed last week's framework nuclear accord with Iran, calling the development an encouraging step that raised hope of a peaceful solution and an end to sanctions against Tehran. Demonstrators also frequently criticized German weapons export policies, with some urging a stop to foreign missions for the Bundeswehr military.

Ostermarsch 2015 in Stuttgart

'Merkel delivers the weapons, and "our Bundeswehr" at the same time,' wrote this protester

"No democracy can be spread, no conflict can be solved with a weapon in hand," Willi van Ooyen, a spokesman for the organizers, said on Monday.

Another Easter protest took place outside the gate of the Büchel military airbase in Rhineland-Palatinate. An ecumenical service was held there on the Friday, and a subsequent march on the Monday - the site is thought to be the only one in Germany where US nuclear weapons are stored.

From Bertrand Russell to the 'Bundesrepublik'

The Easter marches date back to philosopher, Nobel laureate and atheist Bertrand Russell, a committed pacifist and co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the United Kingdom. In 1958, the inaugural march went from London to Britain's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston; larger marches in later years went in the opposite direction, ending in the capital for greater effect.

Germany first picked up on the tradition in 1960, holding onto it with much greater verve. The German marches peaked in terms of turnout in 1968 and 1983, but numbers have drastically dipped since German reunification and the end of the Cold War. In 2003, however, more than 100,000 people took part to show dissatisfaction with the prospect of a US-led invasion of Iraq.

Ostermarsch 2015 in Stuttgart

Doves remain a common symbol for the movement, whose 2015 motto is: 'Fascism, never again - war, never again'

The German peace movement is also planning a string of 2015 events to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and to mark 70 years since nuclear bombs were dropped on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

msh/rc (AFP, dpa, KNA)

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