Far-right marchers to stay away from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

BERLIN - A German far-right party dropped plans to march through Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate this weekend and agreed to use an alternate protest route, city officials said Wednesday.

About 1,500 marchers are expected for a Saturday protest against government moves to outlaw the fringe National Democratic Party, which security officials view as a magnet for violent neo-Nazis.

Before organizers agreed on a different route, Berlin officials worried that stomping skinheads would pass by a hotel near the gate where international dignitaries are to meet Saturday for a conference on Europe's future.

About 500 of the National Democratic Party's supporters caused international outrage last January when they were allowed to march through the gate, once used as a backdrop for processions by Nazi soldiers. Interior Minister Otto Schily claims there is increasing evidence that the party is a danger to German democracy, fomenting neo-Nazi ideology and racism blamed for brutal attacks on minorities that have left at least three dead this year.

Ending high-profile far-right rallies is one of the government's aims as it asks Germany's highest court to consider whether the party can be outlawed. And interior ministers from Germany's 16 states are to discuss Thursday how to restrict the right to demonstrate at sensitive sites, such as the gate, the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin and monuments.


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