An estimated 15,000 people marched through the German city of Dresden on Monday to protest what they perceive as the malign influence of immigrants—Muslim immigrants, in particular—on German society.
The demonstration was organized by an organization called Pegida, “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West.” Protesters chanted “We are the people,” the same slogan heard in Dresden’s streets before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Pegida decries the influence of Islam in Germany and advocates more strict regulation of asylum-seekers; last year, immigration in the country reached a 20-year high, and more asylum claims were submitted in Germany than in any other EU nation. In another recent instance of anti-immigrant backlash, conservatives floated a controversial draft resolution proposing that foreigners seeking permanent residence in Germany be required to speak German both in public and at home with their families. Chancellor Angela Merkel has condenmned the extremism, warning Germans not to be taken in by “incitement and lies” regarding immigration.
Pegida has gained traction in Eastern Germany despite the fact that relatively few of the country’s immigrants actually live there. In the region of Saxony at the heart of the protests, only 2.5 percent of the population are not citizens of Germany, according to the Washington Post—and, in Dresden, Monday’s protests prompted counter-demonstrations as thousands flooded the streets carrying banners with slogans like “Dresden Nazi Free” and “Dresden for All.”