The protesters in Dresden insist that this is a movement of ‘patriots’ and that they are speaking up for the rest of the German populace which is too frightened to openly question the government’s policies on immigration and asylum seekers. Although many of the protesters insist that they have no connection to Nazis or any right-wing movements, the counter demonstrations both in Dresden and in various cities around the country ridiculed the not-so-subtle xenophobia of PEGIDA.
Here in Munich, a PEGIDA march was originally planned for Monday in which the protesters would have passed Stachus on their way along Sonnenstrasse; however, there purportedly were not enough people willing to take part and the event had to be cancelled.
Video of the demonstration and speech (audio in German) from YouTube/Munchener Merkur
Instead, upwards of 12,000 counter-demonstrators received all the attention here in the Bavarian capital when they descended on Max-Joseph-Platz in front of the Bavarian State Opera. It does not hurt the cause when local celebrities such as Konstantin Wecker, as well as the alternative band The Notwist, show up to lend their support.
Mayor Dieter Reiter emphatically stated, “For us, there is room here for people with all skin colors, from all lands of origin and who speak all languages. Additionally, people of all religions and beliefs are welcome here. For those who go to mosque on Fridays, those who go to synagogue on Saturdays, those who go to church on Sunday, and even for those who simply want to stay home.”
He went on to say that people from as many as 182 countries live in our city, and more than a third of the populace has some form of immigration in their background. Asylum seekers should not only be offered shelter and something to eat, according to the mayor, but he wants them to find a home here in Germany.
This rhetoric would likely not be well received in the midst of the PEGIDA protesters back in Dresden, but Reiter insists that Munich is no place for rabble rousers to create fear and certainly no place for any sort of defamation.
Elsewhere, a banner was hung outside of the Residenz Theater, which sarcastically played on the PEGIDA name. Rather than being against the “islamification” of Germany, the makers of the banner were against the “idiotization” of the public.
What happens in the coming weeks could be interesting for this country that continues to grapple with how to treat outsiders, but for the time being a rather bold statement has been made here in Munich. As people gather with their families during the coming holidays, the topic of what it means to be German will likely be on people’s minds.