Supporters of Germany's anti-Islamization movement PEGIDA have called for marches across the nation on Monday for the first time after last week's deadly terror attacks in Paris, which left 17 dead.
Members of PEGIDA, which stands for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," were planning to wear black armbands to commemorate the 12 victims of the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as the four hostages and one policewoman who were killed in related attacks.
Around 18,000 people came out to support the movement in Dresden last week.
Civilian groups were also planning a counter-demonstration to protest the targeting of Muslims and immigrants for crimes committed by Islamic terrorists. Anti-PEGIDA rallies were planned for Hannover, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, according to German press agency dpa.
PEGIDA 'misusing' Charlie Hebdo
On Sunday, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas condemned PEGIDA's call for rallies and demanded that organizers cancel their marches. "The victims [of the Paris attacks] do not deserve to be misused by such agitators," he told the Bild newspaper.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), also demanded that the group stop its activities. "I want to request those responsible…that they cancel their demonstrations for the foreseeable future, especially at a time when the whole world is shocked about the events in Paris," said CSU head Horst Seehofer in an interview with public broadcaster ARD.
Earlier Sunday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere accused PEGIDA of misusing the strikes on Charlie Hebdo for its own political means.
Leipzig bans 'offensive' caricatures
PEGIDA's Monday marches have also become a theme for French caricaturists, who have released a pamphlet with a cartoon featuring a vulture and a hyena marked with the movement's acronym sniffing at the site of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
"We, French and Francophone cartoonists, are shocked at the murders of our friends. And we are disgusted that rightist forces are trying to instrumentalize this for their own benefit," said the group in the pamphlet, which also featured the words "PEGIDA, GET LOST!"
PEGIDA members in the city of Leipzig are initially banned from showing any caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in their processions, but the prohibition was later lifted by city officials.
PEGIDA has been organizing protests every Monday in Dresden for the last few months, speaking out against its perceived excessive influx of foreign immigrants. Smaller marches have also taken place in other cities across the country.
mg/cmk (AFP, dpa)