Thousands of people in Germany are participating in the Pegida rallies against the country’s massive influx of Muslim immigrants. Pegida stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West”, and the group has been making regular protests for the past year.
Largely anti-Islamic in nature, the group has been known for making threats and derogatory statements towards Muslims. The protests started when Germany and other European countries began experiencing a massive increase in the number of refugees fleeing from the Middle East.
Protesters in Pegida have largely criticized the German government for having a lax policy toward refugees. However, many people consider the Pegida protests to be racist and violent in nature.
Leader of the Pegida protests Lutz Bachmann said at the most recent gathering, “Politicians attack and defame us and the lowest tricks are used to keep our mouths shut. We are threatened with death, there are attacks on our vehicles and houses and we are dragged through the mud, but we are still here. Because we came to stay and we are staying to triumph. And we will triumph.”
Following his speech, the crowd proceeded to chant “We are the people”, a slogan made popular when protesters called for the Berlin Wall to be taken down.
Some protesters have insisted that the movement is not about the hatred of immigrants, but rather a way to bring attention to issues in Germany.
Representative from Resistance East-West Esrer Seitz said, "Pegida is not xenophobic, we are simply drawing attention to the many problems Germany is now facing.”
Police in Germany estimated that up to 20,000 people were involved in the most recent Pegida protest. Meanwhile, counter protests have started to spring up as well, as people supporting the immigrants displayed signs such as “Refugees Welcome” and “Stop Racism”.
It’s debatable whether or not the group is simply demonstrating against immigrants or if their protests are inherently against Islam. Either way, the protests are quickly becoming larger in scale and more of a threat to public safety.
German officials expect that up to one million immigrants will enter into the country this year.