One person injured after being set upon by rival protesters as anti-migration group draws thousands to east German city – and similar numbers of counter-protesters
At least one person has been seriously hurt after thousands of people massed in the eastern German city of Dresden to mark the first anniversary of the anti-migrant movement Pegida. Thousands more came out in counter-protest.
Dresden police said in a tweet that a Pegida supporter had been attacked by unidentified assailants, leaving him seriously injured.
Carrying placards bearing images of burqa-clad women crossed out, or slogans referring to the German chancellor such as: “Go [Angela] Merkel: you give the Judas kiss”, Pegida supporters gathered in downtown Dresden on Monday, the birthplace of the movement. One of them, Hannelore, told AFP: “We are here for our children and grandchildren. We are proud to be here and that many people are here. We are glad that people have the courage to speak out.”
“Pegida is not a brown-shirt movement. Never,” said the protester in her 60s, referring to the Nazis, adding: “Frau Merkel is driving our country against the wall.”
Pegida – short for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident started life as a xenophobic Facebook group centred around co-founder Lutz Bachmann, 42. At its peak, the movement attracted 25,000 at its weekly gatherings in January, before interest began to wane, not least because of Bachmann’s online racist slurs and the surfacing of selfies in which he sported a Hitler moustache.
But Pegida has seen some revival in recent weeks as Germany gears up to welcome up to a million asylum seekers this year.
Counter-protesters, however, also sought to make sure their voices were heard as they turned up in their thousands in Dresden.
Hans, 75, told AFP he made it a point to be present. He said: “Pegida is celebrating its birthday and we think that it is very important for the majority of the population to not join Pegida, and to show that they don’t agree with the movement.”
Before the Pegida march, Merkel reiterated a call for citizens to shun “those with hate in their hearts”. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “The chancellor has already reacted to such demonstrations in her 2015 New Year’s speech, and I would repeat it here as it is unfortunately still valid: ‘Don’t follow those who have hate in their hearts.’”