The Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) welcomed Dutch politician and controversial anti-Islam orator Geert Wilders to their weekly ‘stroll’ in Dresden last night, as the group regains ground after a difficult couple of months.
Wilders addressed the crowd of 10,000 in his customary style, telling his “dear friends” of PEGIDA he sees them as “heroes” for standing up against the German government, which insists that mass immigration and acceptance of Islam as a core part of society are non-negotiable. Gathered around a purpose-built stage on the banks of the Elbe, Wilders made reference to a controversial speech given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel shortly after the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in January, when she said Muslims “belong to Germany”.
Wilders said: “Your chancellor, Frau Merkel, has said Islam belongs to Germany and I ask you, is she right? She’s not right”. The crowd responded with cheers of “Merkel must go”.
Refering to the important part Dresden played in the collapse of the old Communist East Germany, Wilders remarked: “26 years ago, you have to Dresden and Leipzig in the world an important lesson… it was that truth is stronger than lies, that courage is stronger than tyranny, that freedom is stronger than oppression.
“You have brought Germany back, and I tell you. Today, Germany needs a new revolution”. PEGIDA members remain proud of the long-standing revolutionary tendency among Saxons, the Federal state of which Dresden is the capital. Placards are frequently seen at PEGIDA marches celebrating the Protestant revolution against the Catholic church in 1525, the revolutions that set Germany on the path to unification in 1848, the founding of the Weimar republic in 1918, the brutally suppressed uprising against the Communist state in 1953, the collapse of Communism in 1989, all of which had strong Saxon roots.
Speaking of the national changes needed to survive in the modern world, Wilders said the threat of Islamisation meant Germany had to leave the Schengen European border-less zone, and that people who hate Germany have no place in it and should go home.
Although the estimate of 10,000 attendees at the rally is low compared to the 25,000 that could be expected to turn up in January and February of this year, more striking is the dwindling counter-movement. Marked by its extreme violence – throwing stones, glass bottles, and fireworks at PEGIDA members, and brawling with police at protests, the ‘antifa’, as they are known in Germany, often outnumbered PEGIDA marchers.
They they only mustered 3,000 last night to protest against Wilders, one of the least popular men in Europe among the political left. That suggests PEGIDA members are set for the long run while their political enemies are suffering from a lack of stamina.
Despite starting on a high, PEGIDA has enjoyed a fairly rough year so far, with a number of scandals breaking out around the leaders of the protest movement as the German mainstream media – that PEGIDA calls the ‘lugenpresse’, or ‘liar press’ – dug for dirt. Founder Lutz Bachmann took a short break from leading the group in January and former chief spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel left after her family were intimidated by ‘antis’.
Numbers started to dwindle after a number of marches were cancelled by police under the pretext of ‘security’, and the violent counter-protests gathered steam, but the group now seems to be staging a revivsl. The movement is even fielding a candidate in the upcoming mayoral elections in Dresden – a move which may have prompted usually casually dressed leader Bachmann to swap his jeans and parka coat for a suit and blue tie.
The election will take place on June 7.