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German Protests Against U.S. Spying Draw Thousands

Thousands of protesters in cities across Germany took part in demonstrations against spying by the U.S. and other countries.

An organization called Stop Watching Us, which describes itself as a “conglomeration of concerned citizens,” had called for protests in more than 30 cities across the country, according to its website. Florian Waechter, who organized the demonstrations, said in a telephone interview that his group doesn’t yet know how many people participated.

In Frankfurt, protesters braved 36 degree-celsius (97 Fahrenheit) heat with banners that compared surveillance to a vision of novelist George Orwell and the secret police of former communist East Germany. As many as 1,000 people attended the demonstration in the country’s financial capital, broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk reported on its website, citing the police.

More than 700 people demonstrated in Cologne, Koelner Stadt Anzeiger reported on its website. About 500 people joined a rally in Berlin, Berliner Zeitung said on its website.

Germany’s opposition Social Democrats stepped up attacks on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response to the U.S. surveillance scandal this month to help turn around their electoral fortunes before the country goes to the polls in September. Merkel’s chief of staff was called before parliament this week to answer questions about what the government knew about U.S. spying.

Joerg-Uwe Hahn, a lawmaker with Merkel’s Free Democratic Party allies and Tarek Al-Wazir from the opposition Green Party spoke at the rally in Frankfurt.

The protests aren’t affiliated with individual parties, Waechter said.

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