Melissa Eddy, AP, September 18, 2008
Police announced plans Thursday to station 3,000 officers this weekend in downtown Cologne, where thousands are expected to demonstrate against far-right groups attending an “Anti-Islamification” conference.
The conference includes plans for a protest Saturday against the construction of a large mosque in the western German city. Several hundred people are expected at the nationalist protest and up to 10 times as many at counter-demonstrations, police said.
City officials, churches, labor unions and left-leaning political parties have organized protests throughout the weekend. Dozens of local bars and cafes are also joining in, using the name of the city’s local brew, Koelsch—called “No Koelsch for Nazis”—for a protest that aims to block nationalists from Cologne’s downtown square.
Experts say nationalists are using the mosque issue to mask their real intentions—founding a right-wing political party that is attractive to Germans who fear a growing immigrant population.
Two of Europe’s top far-right leaders—French nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen and the top member of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, Christian Strache—said they won’t be attending the conference.