Anger over a wave of sexual assaults that occurred across the EU on New Year’s Eve reached a boiling point in Germany on Saturday when some 1,700 people attended a rally organized by the anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement.
PEGIDA, which nearly fizzled early last year, gained in popularity as hundreds of thousands of Mid-East asylum seekers responded to Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy by flooding across Germany’s borders. Initially, many Germans met the the migrants with hugs and gifts, but as the months wore on, sentiment gradually soured and attendance at PEGIDA rallies once again spiked with as many as 20,000 people showing up for an October demonstration.
Seeking to capitalize off the assaults that were allegedly perpetrated by groups of marauding Arab refugees in Cologne, PEGIDA took to the streets this weekend and predictably, clashes with riot police ensued.
“Demonstrators, some of whom bore tattoos with far-right symbols such as a skull in a German soldier’s helmet, had chanted ‘Merkel must go’ and ‘this is the march of the national resistance’”, Reuters writes. Another banner read: “Rapefugees not welcome.”