Berlin (AFP) - A record 17,000 anti-Islamic protesters rallied for their tenth demonstration in as many weeks Monday in eastern Germany, celebrating the rise of their far-right populist movement by singing Christmas carols.
Germany has for weeks grappled with the emergence of the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” or PEGIDA, whose ranks in the city of Dresden have swelled rapidly from just a few hundred in October.
About 4,500 counter-demonstrators marched through the city under the slogan “Dresden Nazi-free”, warning that there was no space for racism and xenophobia in the country that perpetrated the Holocaust.
Most PEGIDA followers insist they are not Nazis but patriots who worry about the “watering down” of their Christian-rooted culture and traditions. They often accuse mainstream political parties of betraying them and the media of lying.
Braving cold and wet weather, they gathered outside the historic Semperoper concert hall for their pre-Christmas recital. Police put their numbers at about 17,500, up from the previous high of 15,000 a week earlier.