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Police block PEGIDA rally over attack threat

January 18, 2015

Anti-immigration group PEGIDA has canceled plans for a rally in Dresden on Monday, seemingly after threats against the main organizer, Lutz Bachmann. This follows considerable international attention on the group.

PEGIDA demonstrators in Dresden
Image: Reuters/F. Bensch

Dresden's police called off Monday's PEGIDA demonstration because of a "concrete threat against a member" of the organizing body. The police chief on Sunday issued a blanket ban on all demonstrations in the city on Monday, citing the threat of an attack.

The ban means that a demonstration by opponents of PEGIDA planned for Monday will also not take place.

"On analyzing the current situation, we now no longer believe this is an abstract danger, but rather a concrete one," said Dresden police chief Dieter Kroll, adding that one particular member of PEGIDA and that person's entourage was most at risk.

The comments seemed to suggest that Lutz Bachmann, the 41-year-old widely credited as the founder and organizer of PEGIDA, might be the subject of the threat. Mass-circulation daily Bild reported online that this was the case.

Dresden police said they had no clues at hand that would identify the potential attackers, but officials noted the threat echoed a recent tweet in Arabic describing PEGIDA as an "enemy of Islam."

PEGIDA, whose name means "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West," has held weekly Monday marches in Dresden since late last year. Last week's demonstration, five days after the terror attacks in Paris, drew an estimated crowd of 25,000. International attention on the group's activities has been high, presumably in part because of Germany's 20th-century past.

Lutz Bachmann
PEGIDA's main organizer, Lutz Bachmann, is believed to be a potential targetImage: Reuters/H. Hanschke

Kathrin Oertel, another senior PEGIDA figure, said afterwards that all of the organization's supporters had been told to stay at home, and not to travel to Dresden on Monday. PEGIDA also announced the cancelation on security grounds via its Facebook page.

"It is a grave infringement on freedom of opinion and the right to assembly, if it is possible for terrorist forces to lever out our constitutionally guaranteed right, but your safety comes first," PEGIDA wrote on its Facebook page, saying that its members and the police were working to ensure a rally could take place next Monday, January 26.

After this, in block capitals, the group wrote an appeal for "all Europeans who are for freedom of opinion and against religious fanaticism of any kind" to wave their national flag out of the window and display a lighted candle in their window at the planned time of Monday's march, 6:30 p.m. local time (1730 GMT/UTC).

Weekly news magazine Der Spiegel had reported on Friday that the PEGIDA marches were a possible target for attacks, saying that intelligence agencies had intercepted communications on the topic from "known international jihadis."

msh/gsw (AFP, AP, dpa)