Prominent German politicians spoke out against anti-migrant group PEGIDA on Tuesday, the day after the organization marked its first anniversary with a thousands-strong rally in the eastern city of Dresden.
"It is time to band together" against xenophobia, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on German public television. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, meanwhile, spoke of an "insufferable amount of hate towards refugees and politicians," who support them in a newspaper interview, seemingly a reference to the violent attack against pro-refugee mayoral candidate Henriette Reker in Cologne.
Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's deputy chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), also condemned the presence of the "extended and verbally abusive arm of [right-wing parties] the AfD and NPD" on city streets.
PEGIDA supporters gathered in downtown Dresden on Monday night under banners carrying slogans such as "Merkel must go," and "Traitor to the people." Media estimates suggested that between 15,000 and 20,000 "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" (to translate the acronym PEGIDA) showed up to voice this disapproval of the government's reaction to the recent refugee crisis.
'Willingness' for violence
Some politicians went a step further and issued warnings of increasing right-wing radicalization and violence. Yasmin Fahimi, the secretary-general of the SPD, said she was "convinced that regional and federal legal bodies urgently need to keep a close eye on these people."
Martin Schulz, a former member of the German parliament with the SPD who is now president of the European Parliament, said that while he thought the issue of right-wing extremism was lower in Germany than other European countries, he found the "willingness to resort to violence and brutality clearly higher," than elsewhere.
"There is, beyond doubt, right-wing extremist violence in Germany," Schulz said in the Rheinische Post daily.
es/msh (AFP, KNA, Reuters)