Updated at 9.15am
A BROAD RANGE of different groups will convene today under the banner of an anti-racist coalition to protest against the launch of the anti-Islam group Pegida, which plans to launch its Irish branch this afternoon.
The ‘anti-racist coalition’ will hold a demonstration this afternoon at 1.30pm outside the GPO.
The coalition is made up of at least 30 organisations – including political parties, civil rights groups and immigrant solidarity groups.
Pegida is due to hold the launch of its Irish branch today at 3pm, also outside the GPO. The title of the event is “Pegida Ireland invites you to a demonstration of concerned citizens against Islamic invasion”.
Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) is a broad European network of loosely linked groups opposed to what they call the “Islamisation of Europe”.
The organisation was founded in Dresden, in eastern Germany in October 2014, but has since spread to a number of European countries – however, Dresden remains its stronghold.
While initial demonstrations attracted only a handful of people, its numbers swelled last January, with marches in German cities attracting up to 25,000 people at their peak, before interest began to wane in the organisation.
Pegida demonstrations again started gathering steam in October as a massive influx of migrants and refugees started arriving in Europe from war-torn countries.
Today marks a day of action for the groups that fall under the Pegida banner, with a number of anti-immigration and anti-Islam demonstrations planned for across Europe.
Last week, the Irish Times reported that Peter O’Loughlin of Identity Ireland – an anti-immigration party based in Ireland – confirmed that today was the official launch of the Irish branch of Pegida.
A spokesperson in the UK confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the Irish branch were affiliated with the wider Pegida network.
“No to Pegida”
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, one of the counter-demonstration organisers, Mariya Ivancheva, said that the purpose of the event was to combat the growing prevalence of right-wing racist groups in Europe and Ireland.
“We are very worried about the rise of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and racist statements and sentiments organising in Ireland,” she said.
We see that [Pegida] are trying to speak to certain sentiments that we see as legitimate, which is that working people in Ireland who are affected by the crisis are suffering.
They are suggesting to these people that their main problem is migrants… when their main problem is economic inequalities which they have been facing especially severely since the economic crisis.
Ivancheva, who is a sociologist and anthropologist based at UCD and originally from Bulgaria, also said that it was necessary to distinguish between a small group of extremists that carry out acts, and Islam and vulnerable immigrants as a whole.
“I think there is a necessity to distinguish,” she said.
We should also recognise… that amongst our own society and among Christians and among white people there is also a lot of hatred and extremism and violence and racist sentiment.
The demonstration will feature speeches from a range of representatives, as well as music and poetry. Ivancheva said that 2,200 people had signed up to the event of Facebook, but she would expect anywhere between 500 to 1000 people to attend.
The Pegida Ireland event page had 122 people attending as of last night.
While no representative of Pegida Ireland responded to TheJournal.ie’s request for comment, a post by the event organisers of the Facebook event page responded angrily to the organisation of a counter-demonstration.
Counter-demonstrations have always sprung up against Pegida marches, with people protesting against what they call the racism and xenophobia of the organisation.
Pegida have always denied being a racist organisation – an assertion that anti-racism groups vehemently dispute.
Last January, its founder Lutz Bachmann stepped down from the organisation when images emerged that appeared to show him posing as Adolf Hitler. There were also reports of him referring to immigrants by a number of derogatory terms in a closed Facebook conversation.
He was reinstated as chairman of the organisation in February of the same year, amid reports that the images of him posing were fakes.
Mariya Ivancheva stated that today’s demonstration will be a strictly peaceful, non-violent family affair.
“We hope to have a nice rally that would celebrate diversity,” she said.
It would start earlier than the one that Pegida would hold so when they’re there we are ready to face them but not to confront them. We want to hold a family friendly, very peaceful rally.