Almost 20,000 people have marched through Berlin and Hamburg demanding that Germany take in more migrants stranded at sea. Sunday’s marches were organized in response to the violent anti-migrant protests in Chemnitz.
Up to 16,000 people marched through the northern German city of Hamburg on Sunday, urging officials to open up the city’s ports to stranded migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean.
In a series of demonstrations organized by the “Seebrücke” (Sea Bridge) rights group, several pro-migrant protesters donned orange life jackets in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing parts of Africa for Europe.
Other demonstrators held up signs reading “Human rights, not rightist humans,” and “Seebrücke instead of Seehofer,” a reference to Germany’s hard-line interior minister.
Some 5,000 people kicked off the protests along Hamburg’s piers, with about 10,000 others joining as the crowd marched past the grounds of St Pauli, the local football club famous for its working-class left-wing support.
“We must not allow refugees to drown at sea, nor must we allow them to be mobbed and beaten up,” Hamburg’s Protestant bishop, Kirsten Fehrs, told the pro-migrant rally. “If we let this happen, we will be on our way to barbarity.”
Fehrs went on to say that Europe was obliged to establish safe and legal escape routes from Africa to the continent. “Politics must not be exempt of empathy.”
Also attending the rally was Claus-Peter Reisch, captain of the “Lifeline” rescue ship, which is currently being held by authorities in Malta.
In Berlin, some 2,500 people also took part in pro-migrant protests. The crowds marched from the city’s Molkenmarkt square to the Brandenburg Gate under the banner “Berlin: A safe haven for refugees.”
The Seebrücke group said it had sent a petition to Berlin’s Senate, urging the city to take in migrants rescued at sea. The city should do all it can to “provide visas and residency rights to those rescued,” it said.
Several people also took part in pro-migrant marches in the German cities of Cologne, Frankfurt and Duisburg on Sunday.
The demonstrations, organized by a range of Catholic and Protestant civic organization, were part of Europe-wide weeks of protests under the banner “Build Bridges, Not Walls.”
For many, Sunday’s marches were a welcome response to this week’s scenes in the eastern German city of Chemnitz, where thousands of far-right demonstrators, fuelled by rage and violence, clashed with anti-fascist counterdemonstrators.