German Anti-Islamists Vow to Continue to Protest

January 19, 2015  

Germany’s “anti-Islamization” movement PEGIDA vowed at its first press conference Monday to take to the streets again next week, after a march was cancelled over a terrorism threat.

Asked about plans for future rallies in the eastern city of Dresden, the leader of the populist group, Lutz Bachmann, said that “next Monday obviously there will be another one, that’s the state of play right now”, AFP reported.

Police in Dresden had banned all public open-air gatherings within city limits for Monday, citing the “concrete threat” of an assassination attempt against the group’s leaders.

PEGIDA instead urged followers to light a candle in their window and hang up the black-red-gold German national flag.

Amid criticism about the curtailing of the the right to demonstrate, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fundamental right to freedom of assembly “must wherever possible be protected”.

PEGIDA spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel said that in future “we won’t be deprived of the right to assembly and free speech”.

The self-styled “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident”, founded three months ago, have drawn up to 25,000 people on to the streets in weekly rallies they dub “evening strolls”.

At the press conference, Bachmann and Oertel sought to reach out to what they have long dubbed the “lying press” and to moderate the group’s image, saying it was not against foreigners or Islam but against “Islamization”.

They distanced themselves from crude racist slurs, signs reading “Islam=cancer” and the presence of neo-Nazis at past rallies, insisting that most of their supporters are citizens fed up with contemporary politics.

In a list of six core demands, they called for immigration reform modelled on the Canadian system, to attract more skilled professionals and fewer refugees, and for more steps obliging foreigners to “integrate”.

They said “Islamists and religious fanatics must be expelled and not allowed to return”, while also calling for “direct democracy” through referendums and for tighter domestic security.

Merkel, who is often known to avoid controversial issues, has weighed in strongly on the PEGIDA issue, condemning its leaders for having “hatred in the hearts”.

Last week, at a rally to condemn the Paris jihadist attacks and take a stand against rising Islamophobia, German President Joachim Gauck declared, “We are all Germany”, in an attempt to send a message of reassurance to Germany’s four-million-strong Muslim community.

A recent poll found that one German in eight would join an anti-Muslim march if the PEGIDA movement organized one in their home towns.

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