Thousands of supporters and opponents of Germany’s growing anti-Islam movement, PEGIDA, have held rival mass protests in Leipzig after the threat of a terrorist attack forced police to ban all demonstrations in the nearby city of Dresden. The rally came after the xenophobic group’s self-styled leader was forced to resign after posing as Adolf Hitler on a Facebook site, reports the Independent.
According to the Guardian, Lutz Bachmann, 41, a butcher’s son from Dresden and a co-founder of PEGIDA, posed as Hitler after a session at his hairdresser’s, complete with a Hitler hairstyle dyed black and parted on the right, and a toothbrush moustache. The image, which appeared on Bachmann’s Facebook page, was accompanied by the line “he’s back,” after a bestselling 2012 novel about Hitler.
The Facebook page was also said to contain virulently racist remarks, allegedly made by Bachmann. These described foreign immigrants and asylum seekers as “cattle,” “riff raff, and “a pack of dirt” and concluded: “There is no such thing as real war refugees. [sic]” The outrage at the remarks grew and, as the thousands were preparing to march in Leipzig, Bachmann had resigned. “PEGIDA will go on,” said Kathrin Oertel, a fellow founder of the PEGIDA movement.
Bachmann, who has multiple convictions for burglary, assault, and drug possession, was said by German Intelligence Services to be a target for Islamist terrorists who posted an intention to kill him on social media sites, reports the Guardian. For that reason, what would have been PEGIDA’s 13th demonstration on Monday was cancelled. Dresden state prosecutors said they were investigating Bachmann on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.
Authorities in Leipzig said more than 4,000 police from throughout Germany had been drafted into the city, where thousands of pro- and anti-PEGIDA demonstrators took to the city’s streets. PEGIDA, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West,” was launched in the east German city of Dresden in October. A mere 150 supporters attended its first rally, but early this month 25,000 supporters took part in one of the movement’s so-called “Monday stroll” demonstrations.
PEGIDA protesters brandishing German national flags and placards criticizing Chancellor Angela Merkel for failing to cut immigration, gathered en masse in front of the east German city’s opera house. PEGIDA’s supporters, who arrived from neighboring east German town such as Dresden and Chemnitz, included neo-Nazis and football hooligans but also pensioners and businessmen. They were separated from a large crowd of anti-PEGIDA protesters chanting “Nazis out” by the riot police.
Many claim that Germany is being “overrun” by Muslim immigrants.
[Image via the Guardian]