Thousands rally against migrants in Germany

  • 20/10/2015
PEGIDA has seen some revival in recent weeks (Reuters)
PEGIDA has seen some revival in recent weeks (Reuters)

Tens of thousands of people have massed in the German city of Dresden in counter rallies over the anti-migrant movement PEGIDA, with one demonstrator seriously injured in a brief clash between the two sides.

Police said in a tweet a PEGIDA supporter was attacked by unidentified assailants, leaving him seriously injured.

Carrying placards with images such as a picture of burqa-wearing women with a big cross over it, or slogans like "Go Merkel: you give the Judas kiss", PEGIDA supporters gathered in downtown Dresden, the birthplace of the movement, chanting "resistance, resistance!"

"This has been a year of PEGIDA, a year of demonstrations. We are here. PEGIDA works," said co-founder of the movement Lutz Bachmann to cheers.

"Politicians insult us, they distort us. We are threatened with murder, but we are still here. We will stay on to win, and we will win," he said, claiming that 39,000 supporters had joined in the rally on Monday (local time).

Independent estimates gave a smaller turnout, with local newspaper Saechische Zeitung saying 20,000 were present, while Durchgezaehlt, a university group specialising in rally estimates, said around 19,000 had attended the rally.

One of them, Hannelore, said: "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 sixties, referring to the Nazis, adding that "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 Bachmann, 42. Interest began to wane, not least because of Bachmann's online racist slurs.

But PEGIDA has seen some revival in recent weeks as Germany gears up to welcome up to a million asylum seekers this year.

The disapproval of Merkel's open-door policy to those fleeing war was clear at the rally, with some demonstrators openly sympathising with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's hardline stance to build fences and keep migrants out.

Nevertheless, counter-protesters also sought to make their voices heard on Monday as they turned up in their thousands in Dresden, estimated at 14,000 by Durchgezaehlt.

Hans, 75, told AFP he made it a point to be present at the counter-rally because "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".