Participants of the demonstration called for a “Fortress Europe” coalition against refugees. During the rally, demonstrators repeatedly shouted “Merkel has to go”.
Wolfgang Koeppe, a supporter of PEGIDA, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, said a large number of refugees are “not possible to handle in any country”.
Many people do not agree with the policy of Merkel, he said, adding “we should have a sharp cut(in the number of asylum seekers) to make it financeable”.
German police had expected up to 15,000 PEGIDA supporters from all over Germany to gather in Dresden. However, according to estimates by the student group Durchgezaehlt, between 6,000 to 8,000 people took part in Saturday’s rally in the city.
Meanwhile, thousands of counter-demonstrators rallied on Saturday morning in Dresden, carrying placards with slogans such as “No place for Nazis”. Many police officers were on site to prevent clashes between PEGIDA and their counter-demonstrators.
“For us, it is very important to show that refugees are still welcome, that we are open to other cultures, and we are pleased that other cultures come into our country,” said Susanne Kraemer, a university teacher from the German city Leipzig, who marched against PEGIDA.
Dresden was the main rally site of PEGIDA’s campaign of “Fortress Europe” on Saturday, which was originally scheduled to take place in 14 European cities.
Members of PEGIDA began their marches in Dresden in October 2014, but the movement had all but vanished after pictures surfaced showing its co-founder Lutz Bachmann sporting a Hitler moustache. The movement has made a comeback since September 2015 with the growing number of refugees coming to Germany. Enditem