Far-right Pegida blames Paris attacks on migrants
Thousands joined a rally of Germany's far-right Pegida movement Monday, cheering a speaker who blamed the Paris jihadist attacks on what he labelled Europe's failed immigration policy.
"The attacks didn't come out of nowhere," Siegfried Daebritz, a leader of the self-styled "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident" (Pegida), told the flag-waving crowd in the eastern city of Dresden.
"They are the result of an immigration policy that invites people from completely foreign cultures with completely different values into countries and regions whose culture many of these immigrants despise."
The rally started with a minute's silence for the Paris victims. Some protesters waved the French tricolour flag, while others held up placards that said "Je suis Paris" and "Yesterday in Paris, tomorrow in Germany".
"An attack on Paris is an attack on Europe and thus an attack on Germany. Close the borders Mrs Merkel, Its enough!" - A placard at Monday evening's Pegida protest. Photo: DPA
Police no longer give attendance figures for Pegida rallies, but an initiative by Dresden's university gave a crowd estimate of 9,000 to 12,000 – far below their all-time record of 25,000 after January's jihadist attack against the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris.
Pegida started life over a year ago as a xenophobic Facebook group, initially drawing just a few hundred protesters to demonstrations in Dresden.
Interest began to wane following overtly racist comments by founder Lutz Bachmann, which are now being investigated by prosecutors, and the surfacing of "selfies" in which he sported a Hitler moustache and hair-style.
But Pegida has seen a revival as the influx of migrants to Germany has spiked, with the country expecting up to a million asylum seekers this year.
The populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD), which shares many of Pegida's fears, has risen in recent polls to 10 percent support.
Pegida drew widespread condemnation in October after a speaker used Nazi-era rhetoric, including a reference to concentration camps, and after a protester displayed a miniature gallows with the names of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy.
Merkel has repeatedly urged citizens to stay away from the rallies and shun those with "hate in their hearts".
On Monday night the crowd again chanted "Merkel must go!"
One protester, who gave his name as Thomas, 45, told AFP: "What happened in Paris just confirms what we have been warning about. It is very sad but not very surprising. We're probably next in line."