Anti-immigrant Pegida supporters, opponents rally in Dresden

xinhuanet.com 20-Oct-2015

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Protesters participate in a mass rally of the anti-immigrant Pegida movement in Dresden, , on Oct. 19, 2015. German police said Monday that thousands were expected to join in the mass rally of Germany's xenophobic PEGIDA movement in the eastern German city of Dresden. Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident, plans to hold the rally to mark the one-year anniversary of its foundation. (Xinhua/Zhang Fan)

DRESDEN, Germany, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- On the one year anniversary of the xenophobic movement Pegida, tens of thousands of Pegida supporters and opponents rallied in the eastern German city of Dresden on Monday.

Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident, is an organization that holds rally against their alleged Islamization of Germany and the immigration and asylum policy in Germany and Europe since October 20, 2014 in Dresden.

According to estimates by the student group "Durchgezaehlt", a total of up to 20,000 Pegida supporters took to the streets on Monday evening, while around 14,000 demonstrators marched in protest against Pegida on the same night.

The Saxon police had almost 2,000 officials from six German states and several water cannons in service, according to German local media.

At around 18:30 local time, the Pegida followers started to assemble in the centre of the city, chanting their slogans "We are the people", "Merkel has to go" or "Deport".

Meanwhile, protests against the xenophobic group were also staged in Dresden, calling for openness and compassion.

There were violent clashes between Pegida supporters and opponents on Monday evening, in which several people were injured, as the local newspaper Saechsische Zeitung reported.

Members of Pegida began their marches in Dresden in October last year, but the movement had all but vanished after pictures surfaced in January showing its co-founder Lutz Bachmann sporting a Hitler moustache, but it has made a comeback since September with the growing number of refugees coming to Germany.

Pegida's angry protesters have accused German Chancellor of "treason" for welcoming asylum seekers.

Sabrina, student from Dresden, told Xinhua that people who are following Pegida work off their frustrations on migrants because they are afraid of losing, but this is not the solution to the problems.

German politicians have also warned the public of their rally and expressed growing concern over an escalation of anti-immigrant violence.

Merkel's spokesman said Monday that the chancellor urged people to "stay away from those with hate in their hearts."

In a separate interview with German media on Sunday night, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the organizers of Pegida were "hard right-wing extremists."

The minister referred to a tripling of attacks against asylum seekers since last year as "horrifying," and called on citizens to distance themselves from the group.

"Stay away from those who are injecting this hatred, this poison, into our country," de Maiziere said.