Austrian riot police face counter-marchers protesting against PEGIDA in Linz, Austria, yesterday.
The first protest in the Austrian city of Linz by Germany’s “anti-Islamisation” movement PEGIDA drew just 150 supporters yesterday and was dwarfed by a counter-demo by some 2,000 people, police said.
A planned PEGIDA march through the centre of the northern city was abandoned after several hundred counter-demonstrators blocked their way, chanting “Auf Wiedersehen” (“Goodbye”), the Austria Press Agency reported.
During a stand-off lasting around an hour a few snowballs were thrown there were no incidents of violence.
“There were no arrests,” a police spokesman told AFP.
He also said that unlike at last Monday’s PEGIDA march in Vienna, the first in Austria, police did not see any raised-arm Hitler salutes or “Sieg Heil” chants.
Unlike in Germany, Austria has a strong far-right party in the Freedom Party (FPOe), the third-largest in parliament with around 20% support and which has long campaigned against immigration and “Islamisation”.
“In Austria the FPOe has always been the real PEGIDA. We have always taken seriously the problems to do with Islamism,” the party’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache told NEWS magazine in a recent interview.
Meanwhile, a new German movement that broke away from PEGIDA drew just 500 people to its first rally in the city of Dresden yesterday, highlighting the obstacles they face in winning further support and making a national impact.
PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) marches began in the German city of Dresden last year with several hundred supporters and snowballed to reach 25,000 people on January 12.
But numbers have fallen since the movement’s founder stepped down on January 21 after a picture surfaced of him posing as Adolf Hitler.
Other senior figures have also since resigned.
PEGIDA offshoot “Direct Democracy for Europe”, led by Kathrin Oertel who was a founding member of PEGIDA but quit last month, wants tighter immigration controls, more referendums to decide policies and more money for the police.
Oertel and four other founding members broke from PEGIDA last month following the resignation of figurehead Lutz Bachmann who quit after a photo was published of him posing as the Nazi leader and prosecutors opened an investigation for inciting hatred.
“The goals were the same (as those of PEGIDA) but the ways and means of achieving these goals are no longer the same,” Oertel told the crowd in Dresden, adding she wanted an immigration law and greater involvement for ordinary people in political decisions.
They also cited the need to distance themselves from a hard-line PEGIDA offshoot in Leipzig.
Some 5,000 people had been registered for yesterday’s demonstration in Dresden but only about 500 turned up, said local police.
Small offshoots of PEGIDA have sprung up in other German cities and marches have taken place in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway, involving however only a few hundred people.
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