German Chancellor condemns the Pegida movement
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sharply criticized an event convened by the "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" (Pegida) movement. Merkel said there is no room for inciting violence or for offending foreigners in Germany.
The Pegida movement held yet another demonstration in Dresden on 15 December. The Sächsische Zeitung news server. reports that the Dresden Police estimated that as many as 10 000 people gathered for it, while two simultaneous counter-demonstrations were attended by a total of 6 500 demonstrators.
"In Germany, even though there is freedom of assembly, there is no room here for leading others to commit violence or to offend people who come here from other countries," Merkel told journalists in Berlin on 16 December after meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Bojko Borisov. Anti-Islamic sentiment has been growing in Germany recently.
In Dresden, protests have been ongoing for several weeks. On 14 December roughly 15 000 people participated in a peaceful demonstration against racism and xenophobia in Cologne.
That event was a response to demonstrations by right-wing extremists held two months ago that resulted in clashes with police. Anyone participating in events convened by the Pegida movement "must be careful not to become a tool in the hands of the people organizing such events", Merkel warned.
Followers of the movement took to the streets of Dresden once again on 16 December. Thousands of people gathered in front of the town hall and set out on a protest march against the "Islamization of the West" and "criminal asylum-seekers".
Many people in the crowd carried German flags and some chanted "Wake Up!" or "They can't fool us anymore!" Hundreds of police officers were deployed to supervise the peaceful protest and were tasked with preventing clashes with counter-demonstrators carrying banners reading "Nazi-Free Dresden" and "Dresden for All".
On 9 December around 10 000 people gathered in response to a call from the Pegida movement in Dresden, while roughly 9 000 participated in a demonstration for greater tolerance. Some NGOs consider the Pegida movement racist.
"The organizers of these demonstrations are not patriots, but racists who discriminate against minorities and question human rights," emphasized Jürgen Micksch, chair of an intercultural council that brings together church, humanitarian and trade union groups, who also said he believes it would be an error to label all those participating in the demonstrations racists. The German Central Council of Muslims is reproaching politicians in Germany for not devoting enough effort to education that could relieve citizens' fears about immigration.
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