Germany’s Pegida faces counter protest in Dresden
Five years after the German anti-migrant group Pegida held its first gathering in Dresden, four counter-demonstrations have been held against this weekend’s rallies.
The leader of Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”, Lutz Bachmann, is facing an investigation after calling for opponents to be killed.
Anti-racist protests in Dresden attracted around 8,000 people, according to the organisers. The four groups joined up in central Dresden under the Herz statt Hetze (Heart Not Hate) alliance.
One 62-year-old Pegida supporter gave an illegal Hitler salute, prompting a police investigation, the Saxony police tweeted.
Making the Nazi salute is punishable with a custodial sentence and fine.
There were chants of “lying press” from the crowd.
Last year, a 33-year-old was given eight months’ probation and a €2,000 fine for making the salute during extreme-right protests in Chemnitz.
Pegida announced an alliance with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the largest opposition party in the Bundestag.
The group’s marches are often attended by prominent AfD members, including the head of the populist party’s nationalist wing, Björn Höcke, and Andre Wendt, who was recently elected vice-president in Saxony’s state parliament.
Pegida held its first rally in Dresden in 2014 and the movement gained increasing support in 2015 when more than 1 million migrants arrived.
But Pegida’s support appears to have fallen.
Bachmann has been convicted for incitement and other crimes and his facing fresh investigations after using Nazi slogans and for calling on his opponents to be killed.
He said Green and Die Linke (Left) politicians were “Volksschädlinge”, a Nazi-era term for “parasites of the people”.
He referred to politicians on the “degenerate side” who were running German society, saying they should be pushed into a trench and buried.
In the Netherlands, Pegida is also calling on people to attend the annual Sinterklaas festival this year dressed as blackface Zwarte Piet.
“We want to turn it into a traditional, beautiful children’s party again”, said Dutch Pegida leader Edwin Wagensveld, dressed in a Sinterklaas costume in a Facebook post.
Sinterklaas is being held in the city of Apeldoorn this year and full-blown blackface makeup is due to be absent from the official gathering.
Unhappy with the news, Pegida is calling on its members to wear the Zwarte Piet costume, including blackface makeup, frizzy hair, red lips and gold earrings. “It is a small group that has problems with Zwarte Piet. That minority must just accept this tradition. Now the state broadcaster is organising a party for a minority at the expense of the taxpayer”, Wagensveld said in his video.
The municipality of Apeldoorn told the media: “Anyone who wants to come and watch the national arrival in Apeldoorn is very welcome, even if you are made up as Zwarte Piet. If people want to demonstrate against Piet’s appearance, we ask these people to report to us. There are possibilities for this along the route.”
A 2015 Pegida protest in Dresden. Picture credit: Wikimedia