Members of the far right group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) demonstrated at an industrial estate in Birmingham on Saturday 6th February. The march, which was silent, was held alongside demonstrations that occurred across Europe including in France and the Netherlands.
The West Midlands police stated that there was a “significant presence” of police during the march, which showed a surprisingly low turnout of up to 200 people – only half of what was expected. This is the second rally held by Pegida in the UK, and Tommy Robinson (former head of the English Defence League) the demonstration’s orchestrator, profusely denied accusations that the movement was racist.
The group, which originated in Germany, has stated that they are a group concerned with the “rise in the number of people who adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam.” Failed Ukip candidate Paul Weston, who was recently announced as the leader of Pegida UK, has previously described Islam in a speech as “Nazism incarnate.” Dozens of riot police ensured that the Pegida UK group were kept away from a group of around 60 Anti Fascism activists who were also protesting at Birmingham International rail station.
Robinson has further added that there would be additional demonstrations in Birmingham, more specifically being held once a month, every month starting in April. Robinson who has previously labelled Birmingham as the “terrorist epicentre of Britain” obviously hopes to expand the group’s membership and support.
The rally occurred with no incident unlike its French and Dutch counterparts, with the French police firing tear gas when 150 anti-migrant protestors defied bans by holding a rally. In Amsterdam the area previously reserved for the gathering had to be shut down as police examined a suspect package.
Over 70 Birmingham community leaders have condemned the protests and its anti-Muslim rhetoric, with support coming from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Earlier this week he called for people in Birmingham to have a cup of tea with someone from a different race, instead of participating in the rally, as a way of showing opposition to the movement. Church leaders have also sought to oppose the rally by being part of the “HOPE not hate” campaign at the Birmingham Central Mosque showing solidarity with their fellow Birmingham residents.