Violent scuffles broke out across Europe today as thousands of people taking part in far-right anti-Islam protests clashed with pro-immigration groups and riot control police.
Police in Dresden, Germany, saw about 2,000 protesters at a rally organised by the group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, making it the biggest of a coordinated series of demonstrations across European cities.
Known by its German acronym PEGIDA, the group emerged in Dresden two years ago and has become a magnet for far-right and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Nationalist groups in Europe have been galvanized by the unprecedented influx of refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East last year. Today similar, smaller PEGIDA-style protests were planned in France, Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
In the Czech capital of Prague, thousands rallied against the influx of refugees and others in support of them and opposing protesters clashed and had to be separated by police.
Martin Konvicka, a leader of the anti-Muslim movement, is calling the influx of refugees an ‘invasion’ that poses a ‘huge threat for us all’. Two other anti-migrant groups are rallying in Prague and another in the second-largest Czech city of Brno.
In Dublin, scuffles broke out between people who had gathered to protest against the launch of PEGIDA in Ireland, and those who attended the launch of the group.
In Birmingham, meanwhile, police said about about 200 PEGIDA supporters and 60 counter demonstrators turned out. Other demonstrations took place in Warsaw and Graz in southern Austria.
In Amsterdam, riot police have clashed with PEGIDA demonstrators as they tried to hold their first protest in the Dutch capital.
A square near Amsterdam city hall that had been earmarked for the rally had to be shut down shortly before the gathering as police and explosives experts examined what police called a ‘suspect package’.
Only about 200 PEGIDA supporters were present, where they were heckled by left-wing demonstrators who shouted: ‘Refugees are welcome, fascists are not!’
Dutch riot police detained several people as officers on horseback intervened to separate the two groups of demonstrators.
Other demonstrations took place in Warsaw, Bratislava and in Graz in southern Austria. source