The event saw participants, carrying national and party symbols, gathering around 1pm in central Jakobplatz before marching down the streets for a rally. Despite the declared peaceful nature of the gathering, police undertook extra efforts to ensure security and prevent potential clashes with rival groups, cordoning off the streets along the PEGIDA activists’ route.
While it was reported that a counter-demonstration was called for by a local Nazistopp union, no incident has been reported at the PEGIDA rally, which centered around the movement’s traditional anti-Islam and anti-immigrant agenda.
“Violence-free and united against religious wars on German soil,” read one of the placards at the head of the procession.
Another called on the Germans to “wake up” unless they want to see the rule of the Sharia law as the country’s near future.
“Sharia law will become the supreme law. The constitution will land on the garbage heap of history. Do you want this? Then finally wake up!” the sign read.
The activists also denounced NATO and the EU with a banner calling for “resistance to NATO warmongering and EU dictatorship” and “for direct popular democracy.”
Apart from that and feeding into fears of a perceived “Islamization,” the organizers of the rally also took aim at recent rhetoric by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who drew parallels between the Third Reich and modern Germany, igniting the ire of its government and public.
“Your practices are not different from the Nazi practices of the past,” Erdogan said in March, after several rallies in support of a controversial Turkish constitutional reform were canceled by the German authorities over security concerns. Despite a strong rebuke from the German government, with Chancellor Angela Merkel calling Erdogan’s remarks “unjustifiable,” the Turkish leader continued the taunt, most recently stating that he would only stop comparing European governments with Nazis when they cease calling him a “dictator.”
One of the speakers at the PEGIDA march, prominent far-right activist Michael Stürzenberger, lashed out at Erdogan, accusing him of being “the only one who uses Nazi practices,” alleging that the Turkish leader, known for his authoritarian penchant, “is copying the seizure of power by Hitler,” known in Germany as “Machtergreifung.”
PEGIDA, (which stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West’) has been thriving on popular discontent with the migrant influx since its emergence in Dresden in late 2014. Its rallies spread far outside the Germany borders and have been held across all Europe in recent years.