Record 17,000 rally against ‘Islamisation’ in Germany
A record 17,000 anti-Islamic protesters rallied for their tenth demonstration in as many weeks in eastern Germany, celebrating the rise of their far-right populist movement by singing Christmas carols.
Germany has for weeks grappled with the emergence of the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” or PEGIDA, whose ranks in the city of Dresden have swelled rapidly from just a few hundred in October. About 4,500 counter-demonstrators marched through the city yesterday under the slogan “Dresden Nazi-free”, warning that there was no space for racism and xenophobia in the country that perpetrated the Holocaust.
Most PEGIDA followers insist they are not Nazis but patriots who worry about the “watering down” of their Christian-rooted culture and traditions. They often accuse mainstream political parties of betraying them and the media of lying. Braving cold and wet weather, they gathered outside the historic Semperoper concert hall for their pre-Christmas recital. Police put their numbers at about 17,500. The management of the opera house signalled its distaste by turning the building’s lights off and flying flags outside that read: “Open your eyes”, “Open your hearts”, “Open doors” and “Human dignity is sacrosanct”, the first line of the national constitution. The Protestant bishop of Saxony state, Jochen Bohl, said the PEGIDA followers, by singing Christmas carols, were seeking “to exploit a Christian symbol” for political purposes.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, of the centre-left Social Democrats, called for concerned citizens to launch a “rebellion of the decent” against the anti-foreigner movement, saying “that’s the kind of public reaction we need now”.
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