At least 30,000 people participated in the Cologne demonstration against the Turkish government on Saturday. The organizers, the Alevi Community in Germany organization, estimated the turnout at roughly 80,000 people.
The protests in western Germany coincided with some of the first demonstrations in days in Turkey at Taksim Square in Istanbul, the epicenter of over two weeks of public protest. Thousands of protesters gathered in the Istanbul square to lay flowers for the at least four people - one police officer and three civilians - killed in the unrest.
Authorities dispersed the protesters in Istanbul with water cannon on Saturday evening. Water cannon trucks subsequently parked at several entrances to Taksim Square, in a bid to prevent people returning.
Support from abroad
The Cologne organizers are members of the moderate Alevi branch of Islam. Many of their followers live in Turkey, but the population complains of severe repression and some have moved to countries like Germany as a result.
Banners carrying messages, mostly in Turkish, like "Erdogan, the wolf in sheep's clothing" and "Europe knows what's what - a fascist is in charge in Ankara," could be seen in the city on the Rhine, home to several major Muslim organizations in Germany. Another caption read "Bye, bye Erdogan."
Cologne's police said that the display was "pleasingly peaceful."
Some of the demonstrators wore face masks to protest the use of tear gas against Turkish people. The march was planned for several days and some German politicians accepted invitations to speak in the city center near Cologne's cathedral. Green parliamentary whip Volker Beck, Left party leders Gregor Gysi and Social Democrat foreign affairs expert Rolf Mützenich all made appearances.
The Alevite organizers submitted their written demands for what should come next in Turkey, saying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should step down to allow fresh elections. Before this, their document said that "no new accession chapter should be written in the Turkish negotiations to enter the EU."
Erdogan blames outside forces
Erdogan spoke to thousands of supporters in the Black Sea city of Samsun on Saturday, saying that foreign interests were part of a conspiracy to hurt the country. He called on his supporters to "thwart the big game" being played out against Turkey, and suggested that the unrest in Brazil was part of the same supposed plot.
"The same game is now being played over in Brazil," Erdogan said. "The symbols are the same, the posters are the same, Twitter, Facebook are the same, the international media are the same. They [the protests] are being led from the same center."
msh/jm (AFP, dpa, epd, Reuters)