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Pro-Kurdish rally draws 30,000 in Germany

Some 30,000 pro-Kurdish demonstrators rallied in the German city of Frankfurt on Saturday calling for “democracy in Turkey” and urging a “no” vote in an upcoming referendum on expanding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

Turkey angrily denounced the demonstration as “unacceptable.” Many demonstrators carried symbols of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled the Turkish state for over three decades.

Tensions are already running high between Berlin and Ankara after German authorities refused to allow some Turkish ministers to campaign in the country for a “yes” vote in the April 16 referendum, which would hand Erdogan an executive presidency.

Significantly more people turned up for the rally than organizers had been expecting. It took place ahead of the annual Nowrouz festival, when Kurds mark the traditional New Year.

The Saturday protest march in Frankfurt went off peacefully, a police spokesman said.

Some of the participants carried flags and banners of the outlawed PKK, as well as portraits of the group’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence in Turkey, calling for his release.

Police said no banners or flags were confiscated so as to not provoke the crowd, but added that photos had been taken which could lead to future prosecutions.