Up to 15,000 people have marched against “asylum cheats” in anti-Islamization rally in Dresden, Germany. The group’s protests are attracting bigger crowds every week since its first rally in October, which gathered just a few hundred people.
Nationalist activists carried banners reading “Zero tolerance towards criminal asylum seekers”, “Protect our homeland” and “Stop the Islamisation”.
They chanted: “If you don’t love Germany, leave it” and “We’re the people” (German: “Wir sind das Volk”).
“Muslims are plotting to infect our food chain with their excrement,” one of the participants told the Guardian.
“Asylum seekers in Germany have expensive mobile phones, while I cannot afford such luxury and others still cannot afford to eat properly,” added a middle-aged woman.
The organizer of the event, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) is gathering momentum to protest plans to add 14 centers for roughly 2,000 refugees in the eastern city of Dresden.
“The people are with us!” PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann addressed the crowd of people who were either waving or draped in German flags, “Everywhere now, in every news rag, on every senseless talk show, they are debating, and the most important thing is: the politicians can no longer ignore us!”
According to demonstrators Michael Stuerzenberger, “70 percent of people claiming political asylum here are economic refugees. We don’t want to stay silent about this anymore.”
“We don’t want a flood of asylum seekers, we don’t want Islamization. We want to keep our country with our values. Is that so terrible? Does that make us Nazis? Is it a crime to be a patriot?” he told AFP.
In the meantime, about 6,000 communist antifa opponents of PEGIDA organized a counter-demonstration the same day. They were carrying banners, saying “Dresden Nazi-free” and “Dresden for All”.
Anti-Islamization protesters also gathered for the rally dubbed BOGIDA the city of Bonn.
On their Facebook page, the group described the demonstration as a “peaceful evening stroll against Salafists in Bonn, the Islamization of the occident and misled refugee and immigrant policy in Germany.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed the anti-Islamization march, warning the people of falling into the hands of xenophobia.
“Of course there’s freedom to demonstrate in Germany,” Merkel said, “But it’s no place for agitation and mud-slinging against people who come to us from other countries.”
“That’s why everyone should watch out that they aren’t being used as instruments by the initiators of an event like this,” she added.
PEGIDA’s initial march drew just a few hundred people in October. The demonstration on Monday, December 1 attracted 7,500.
The following Monday saw at least 10,000 take to the streets of Dresden. The protesters said they want to preserve Germany’s Judeo-Christian Western culture and curb the spread of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda activities in the EU.
PEGIDA distances itself from neo-Nazi groups in Germany. On its Facebook page, it says German children “can grow up in a cosmopolitan and friendly nation” and it “refuses to allow the spread of activities by groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in Europe.”
Anti-Islam rallies were held in Cologne, Hanover, Kassel, and Chemnitz.
Germany is the second most-favored destination after the US for refugees and asylum seekers, says a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2013, more than 450,000 people came to Germany as migrants.
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