Thousands protest in eastern German city of Dresden against anti-Islamic rallies

Tens of thousands of people are protesting in the eastern German city of Dresden against racism and for an open society.

The protests Saturday came in reaction to weekly anti-Islamic demonstrations that have been taking place for months in Dresden.

The weekly rallies are organized by a group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida. Those rallies have been attended by up to 18,000 people, but Saturday's counter protests mobilized more than twice the crowds — around 35,000 protesters.

Police and city officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but German news agency dpa reported Dresden mayor Helma Orosz telling protesters that their city "won't be split apart by hatred."

Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously called on Germans not to participate in Pegida rallies.