Angela Merkel hadn’t been too keen on Germans attending the latest PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) march (these “evening strolls” take place every Monday).
How did that work out in Dresden?
What began as a quiet evening on the Elbe turned into the largest PEGIDA demonstration seen so far in Germany. Early on Monday evening, a group of anti-PEGIDA demonstrators gathered around Dresden’s Theaterplatz and the city’s synagogue, well-supplied with hot tea and potato soup. By 7.15 p.m. local time (1815 GMT), however, over 25,000 PEGIDA supporters were marching through Saxony’s capital, where they were met by sporadic groups of counter demonstrators.
Greeting the marchers at the pre-march rally was movement organizer and regular PEGIDA speaker Lutz Bachmann.
Bachmann said that the group had six key aims, each met by raucous applause: “1. Creation of an Immigration Act. 2. Right and duty to integration. 3. Expulsion of Islamists and religious extremists. 4. Federal referendums 5. An end to warmongering. 6. More means for internal security.”
Note number 5. “An end to warmongering” is a reference to the (very) modestly tough line taken by Germany against Russia over Ukraine. It is a reminder that the political tensions created by multiculturalism and mass immigration have presented the Russian leader with an opportunity that he has not failed to take.
Note this detail too (from another Deutsche Welle account):
The city of Leipzig on Monday overturned its controversial plan to try to stop anti-immigration protesters from carrying caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad at a planned rally later on Monday evening.
“Freedom of opinion is a very worthy cause, and against the backdrop of the attacks in Paris it cannot be valued highly enough,” mayor Burkhard Jung said after the change of plans, saying the planned ban had gone too far.
Leipzig had initially planned to ban the carrying of Muhammad caricatures, such as those published in the past by Charlie Hebdo, at the demonstration, calling this a bid to prevent any provocation at the rally.
That the city backed down is welcome. That it had proposed a ban in the first place says everything.
As I have written before, I have considerable reservations about PEGIDA. That said, there’s no denying that it has been given its opportunity by the failure of the German political class to address some understandable popular concerns about mass immigration and its consequences. It ought to be noted that it is also a product of the very specific (and not always healthy) politics of those parts of Germany that, like Dresden, used to be in the old East Germany.
In that connection, it’s interesting to see this:
Despite Monday’s huge turnout for PEGIDA in Dresden, however, the movement appears to be failing to achieve its intended national impact. In nearby Leipzig [also in former East Germany] on Monday, the first LEGIDA demonstration pulled in just 4,800 demonstrators, and was faced by a counter movement estimated at 30,000.