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First PEGIDA UK rally confirmed

February 13, 2015

After months of anti-Islamization rallies in Germany, British supporters of the far-right PEGIDA movement have planned their first UK march. The protest is scheduled for February 28 in Newcastle, northeastern England.

Screenshot Facebook Pegida UK
Image: www.facebook.com/pegida.uk

In a statement released on Friday, Northumbria police confirmed the rally which the PEGIDA UK group had been promoting on their Facebook page in recent weeks.

"We have spoken to the organizers and they have informed us they plan to hold their event in Newcastle on February 28," the statement said, adding that police were aware of plans for counter event on the same day in the city. "We will now speak to all of those involved, our partners and our local communities and over the coming days agree on plans for the events."

'Ethnic cleansing of the English'

Since joining Facebook on January 2, the PEGIDA UK page, which bears the slogan "United Against Extremism," has attracted more than 15,250 "likes."

The event page for the Newcastle rally has just over 570 supporters listed as attending.

According to the movement's Facebook page, chairman of right-wing-populist party Liberty GB, Paul Weston, is also expected to speak at the Newcastle demonstration.

The former member of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) left the euro-skeptic party after claiming that it had failed to address issues regarding Islam in Britain.

Despite his wife being a Romanian immigrant, in an interview with politics.co.uk in 2010, Weston said he is convinced the UK is being colonized by immigrants, describing it as the "ethnic cleansing of the English."

Re-emerging right-wing sentiment

The PEGIDA UK movement isn't the first time the country has experienced right-wing sentiments in recent years. Throughout 2013, the far-right protest movement, English Defense League (EDL) held several demonstrations against what they believe to be the spread of Islamism and Sharia law in the UK. Several of the protests ended in clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators.

Since EDL leader Tommy Robinson stepped down in October 2013, however, the group has lost momentum, with Robinson claiming he could not longer keep "extremist elements" in the group at bay.

Earlier this month, Newcastle Central's Labour MP, Chi Onwurah, told British newspaper The Guardian that PEGIDA will not find similar support in Newcastle as it did in Germany.

"PEGIDA, like EDL and all those who try to peddle a message of hatred, will find they have no place in Newcastle," said Onwurah.

Dying trend in Germany?

According to the UK's 2011 census, Islam is the second largest religion in the country after Christianity, with 2,786,635 Muslims making up just 4.4 percent of the UK's total population. In Newcastle, the Muslim community accounts for just 3.6 percent of the city's population.

Since October 2014, PEGIDA has held frequent rallies in the eastern German city of Dresden and a host of other cities across the country.

At the height of their popularity, the Dresden demonstrations saw at turnout of some 25,000 people. Numbers began to dwindle last month, however, with five of the movement's leaders also standing down days after a photo of former leader Lutz Bachman dressed as Adolf Hitler emerged online.

ksb/sms (AFP)