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1,200 police for Vienna Pegida spinoff rally

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1,200 police for Vienna Pegida spinoff rally
Anti-PEGIDA graffiti in Dresden. Photo: APA/dpa
09:21 CET+01:00
The Vienna branch of the German anti-Islam movement Pegida is holding a demonstration in the Austrian capital on Monday afternoon, just three days after the city centre was shut down as thousands protested against a ball organised by far-right groups and politicians.

Numerous left-wing counter demonstrations are also planned against the Pegida march, with police fearing outbreaks of violence between marchers and left-wing activists, similar to the scenes from Friday’s demonstrations, when six policemen were injured, one seriously.

The organizers of the march have said that they expect around 250 people to march through the city centre from 6.30pm, from Europaplatz near to the Westbahnhof, down Mariahilfer Strasse, ending at Museumsplatz. Vienna’s deputy police chief Karl Mahrer has said that 1,200 police officers will be on duty, with extra support drawn from provincial police forces.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that demonstrators and troublemakers who instigated the violence on Friday won’t be marching today. We’re prepared," Mahrer said in an interview with state broadcaster ORF. The counter demonstration will meet at 4pm in the Museums Quartier and plans to march to Stephansplatz.

The Vienna Pegida march is an offshoot of the larger Dresden-based Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of Europe, whose marches have seen a sudden sharp drop in attendance, following the controversial resignation of its founder earlier this month.

Lutz Bachmann resigned after a picture of him looking like Hitler surfaced in the media.

The Vienna group wants "a stop to mass migration to Europe and a change of asylum policy". It has called for asylum to be granted only temporarily, saying that Europe should not have to deal with problems from other continents.

The leader of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, has said that he views Pegida as a serious civil rights movement and that people who are voicing concern about the future of their country shouldn’t be defamed as right-wing extremists.

However, the deputy chairman of the Greens party, Albert Steinhauser, said the movement involved people from "the hooligan scene and some right-wing extremists who are hoping to put a new label on their ideas".

Several Catholic organisations have also been critical of Pegida, saying that the movement is trying to stir up fear and that exclusion is not a solution for the peaceful coexistence of different religions, cultures and world views in Austrian society.

 

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