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22nd Jan 2022

Anti-Islam march in Dresden draws large crowds

  • Germany is set to have around a million asylum seekers in 2015 (Photo: iom.int)

Thousands of people in Dresden on Monday (20 October) marched in protest against Germany's open-door policy on refugees.

Organised by the so-called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida), the demonstrators chanted slogans against German chancellor Angela Merkel before breaking out into violence.

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The march marked the one-year anniversary of the anti-Islam movement.

Placards included "Go [Angela] Merkel: you give the Judas kiss" and "Money for our children instead of money for your asylum seekers". Crowds also shouted in German "Merkel has to go".

German authorities report that clashes took place with a counter-demonstration about an hour into the march, with one Pegida supporter seriously injured.

The anti-Islam movement was co-founded in October 2014 by 42-year old Lutz Bachmann who later took pictures of himself wearing a Hitler moustache.

On Sunday, German interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told public broadcaster ARD that Pegida's leadership are "hard far-right extremists."

Merkel has in the past described Pegida leaders as having "prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts".

At its height, it attracted over 25,000 people and saw offshoots in other EU states. Organisers say around 40,000 showed up on Monday. Others say the figure is between 15,000 and 19,000.

The movement had been on the wane since the start of the year but is now picking up pace after the German government said it expected around 1 million asylum seekers.

One Pegida supporter told AP they are upset with Merkel's pro-refugee policies.

"What the government is doing, throwing open the doors to immigrants, is wrong. Most of them aren't true refugees, they're economic migrants", he said.

Another from the counter-demonstration told AFP that he was there to show that not all Germans support the movement.

"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", he said.

A spate of violence against refugees and people supporting them in Germany has unsettled authorities.

In August, protesters from the militant National Democratic Party (NPD) threw rocks at buses of arriving refugees in a town near Dresden.

Last weekend, a pro-refugee candidate for the mayor of Cologne was stabbed in the neck prior to her election win.

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