The Pegida movement's weekly Monday night protests against the "Islamization of Europe" were supposed to rally Germans to their cause. But it now appears to be having the opposite effect, as counter-demonstrations have sprung up around the country.
"Pegida flops outside of Dresden," Tuesday's German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung’s declared, citing the eastern city where the movement was born in October. There were still a notable 18,000 people Monday night in Dresden to denounce immigrants and Muslims, with some 3,000 people marching against what Die Weltcalls the "citizens of rage."
But the Pegida movement is facing a boomerang beyond Dresden. Across the whole country, counter-protests promoting a message of tolerance were far stronger than the original demonstrators. More than 22,000 anti-Pegida demonstrators rallied in the cities of Stuttgart, Münster, Hamburg, Cologne and Berlin.
To protest what is widely perceived as a racist and extremist movement, the Cologne Cathedral and Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate and television tower on Alexanderplatz switched off their lights.
Siegessäule, Brandenburg Tor, Kölner Dom, Berliner Fernsehturm: Deutschland schaltet #Pegida das Licht aus! Gut so! pic.twitter.com/NnExDbq7Rv
— Sebastian Jabbusch (@SebJabbusch) January 5, 2015
"The Victory Column, Brandenburg Gate, the Cologne cathedral, the Berlin television tower: Germany is switching off its lights against Pegida! Good!"
This follows a series of statements by German politicians over the past few weeks urging citizens to take to the streets to rally against the far-right movement. On Tuesday, the tabloid Bild published a three-page criticism of Pegida, penned by 50 well-known Germans, including former Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder.
Bild's front page Tuesday, "No to Pegida!"
"The Pegida protests appeal to muffled prejudices, to the hatred of foreigners and intolerance," Schmidt wrote. "Germany must remain open and tolerant. Therefore a clear No to Pegida."
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also wrote that "slogans can't change facts: Germany needs immigrants, and we need to have (open) hearts for refugees in need." The general manager of the German national soccer team stressed that many national players who won the World Cup last summer had foreign roots.
A Pegida protester holds a banner calling for ""potatoes instead of doner kebab"" in Cologne Monday — Photo: Bettina Strenske/London News Pictures/ZUMA
Around 200 right-wing demonstrators marched in Cologne against what they consider the "Islamization" of Europe — Photo: Bettina Strenske/London News Pictures/ZUMA
Meanwhile, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung underlines the absurdity of the concept of German identity the Pegida demonstrators claim, pointing out that the typical German Tyrolean bacon could soon be imported from the United States.
A counter-Pegida demonstrator with a poster calling for "human rights instead of right-wing humans" — Photo: Bettina Strenske/London News Pictures/ZUMA
Online, the fight against Pegida is also growing. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online petition against the movement and a "No Pegida" hashtag has spread across Twitter, from various countries and languages.
Don't repeat your history, say no to pegida, Germans! @#nopegida
— Shaviera Indriyati (@shavisapi) January 6, 2015
FM #Steinmeier cont'd: In GER,we know how much we can benefit from the exchange with foreign cultures. Thus,we are not afraid. #NoPegida 2/2
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) January 6, 2015
Germany, you rock! I don't feel this often but right now I am f***ing proud of my country! #StopRacism#NoPegidahttp://t.co/z4lKHW5qVM
— Marcus Fischer (@marcusfischer) January 5, 2015
I’m very proud of all the brave citizens that are on Germany’s streets protesting against racism. #nopegida#nobärgida <3
— Jan Lehnardt (@janl) January 5, 2015
Lassen wir Zahlen für Vielfalt und Toleranz sprechen: Petition gegen #pegidahttps://t.co/OjACYn9qHg#nopegida
— Christiane Kliemann (@Schnecken_Post) January 6, 2015