Because the right-wing extremist groups had said they expected some 1,000 participants, police were out on the streets in full force with water cannons and street closures. But their “March on the Mosque,” meant to be the high point of several days of meetings ahead of a state election in May, garnered only 400 supporters.
The neo-Nazi NPD party and the right-wing populist regional Pro NRW group were grossly outnumbered by citizens, politicians, unions and church groups who showed their solidarity together before the Merkez mosque – one of Germany’s largest.
Head of the centre-left Social Democratic party Sigmar Gabriel was also at the demonstration.
“Vote at the state election for any democratic party, no matter which one, just not for the right-wing extremists,” he said.
Though police reported that 136 people were detained in the protest, they said the event was largely peaceful. By 4 pm protesters had gone home and regular mosque activities resumed with afternoon prayers, they said.