For over a year now, a far-right political group originating in nearby Dresden have been organizing protests against immigration, Islam, and other policies that, in their view, cause detriment to the German people. The group is called PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”). Though they started as a small group, their numbers steadily increased, at one point boasting over 20,000 participants at their weekly protests.
The protests spread beyond Dresden to neighboring cities in eastern Germany, including here in Leipzig. Starting even before the immigration crisis became a popular topic of conversation, the Leipzig PEGIDA branch, LEGIDA, was shutting down the city center every Monday night for protests. More recently, the protests have slowed to only the first Monday of every month. Luckily, most of the demonstrations have been relatively calm, with only a few arrests. However, there have been issues in the past with rioting and stone throwing both with this group and the counter-protests against them.
We have mostly been able to avoid the demonstrations by staying away from the city center on demonstration days, since we live 10 minutes away by foot. However, this past week’s demonstrations hit a bit too close to home for comfort. As we were commuting home, we saw hundreds of police cars gathered around neighboring Westplatz in preparation for the demonstrations. After we sat down to dinner, Craig glanced out our back windows and noticed some commotion. In the enclosed courtyard behind our apartment, there were dozens of German policemen in SWAT outfits corralling Legida protesters.
While I was happy to see that the Leipzig police were prepared for the demonstrations and kept the protesters under control, it’s a scary thought that these protesters were right outside our window, especially knowing the damage they are capable of. It’s also upsetting to see these bigots shutting down large parts of the city and commandeering city resources on a regular basis. Thankfully the group is now only gathering once a month, which I’m sure relieves a large burden from the citizens and the city, but personally I’ll be happier and feel much safer when the number of monthly protests reaches zero.
Have the Legida protests interrupted your life in Leipzig? Share in the comments.