Germany's growing anti-Islamic protest movement registered its largest attendance on Monday with 25,000 supporters turning out in what organisers described as a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.
Pegida, which stands for "Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West", asked supporters marching through Dresden to wear black ribbons in respect for the 17 people killed in the French capital last week. It was met with fervent counter-demonstrations of as many as 8,000 people and accusations that the group were “misusing” events in France to further their cause.
The German chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will attend a protest organised by Muslim groups in Berlin on Tuesday. "Islam is part of Germany," she told reporters during a break with meeting Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. "I am the chancellor of all Germans."
Pegida started out in mid-October with a demonstration in Dresden attended by about 200 supporters. In early December it attracted 15,000 supporters. On 22 December a record 17,500 attended the movement's weekly Monday protest in the city.
While continually met with counter-demonstrations, it surge in popularity has shocked established political parties and come at a time which concerns over immigration are polarising the country. But there are fears that last week’s attacks in Paris have, in some cases, crystallised the cause of the protest movement which on Monday registered its largest figures yet.
Some attendees wore black while others held up placards with the names of the French journalists killed. Others carried banners condemning the "lying press" that they claim misrepresents their cause
"The Islamists, who Pegida have been warning about for 12 weeks, showed France that they are not capable of democracy but rather look to violence and death as an answer," Pegida's leaders said on the group’s social networking site. "Our politicians want us to believe the opposite. Must such a tragedy happen here in Germany first?"
Justice Minister Heiko Maas was one of several leading politicians to urge the Pegida march organisers in Dresden not to "misuse" the deadly attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.
But tensions were further raised over the weekend when arsonists attacked a Hamburg newspaper office that republished cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which had originally been printed by Charlie Hebdo in 2006. The magazine is set to release its first edition since the attacks on Wednesday.
In Berlin, where some 4,000 counter-protesters were kept apart from a few hundred Pegida supporters by police at the Brandenburg Gate on Monday night, one banner read "We are Charlie. We are not Pegida."Reuse content