Last week's attack on French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo has inspired a lot of people to get out on the streets to show solidarity against terror and for free speech. But there's an ugly side to the reaction, too.
On Monday, at least 25,000 people showed up for an anti-Islam rally in Dresden organized by the notorious Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA), a Germany-based group that believes that the European nation should protect Judeo-Christian culture. The group has also called for more stringent policy when it comes to accepting refugees and assimilating them into Germany culture and law.
The Dresden march—the 12th organized by PEGIDA since October—was a response to the Paris attack, which was carried out by Islamist extremists and left 12 people dead. Five more people were killed in subsequent shootings soon after.
"The Islamists, against whom PEGIDA has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed in France today that they are not capable of [practicing] democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution," PEGIDA wrote on its Facebook page after the attack. "Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany?"
Previous PEGIDA rallies have focused on what protesters perceive to be an overabundance of Muslim refugees coming from war-torn Syria. Since the outbreak of Syria's ongoing civil war in 2011, more than 150,000 Syrians have applied for political asylum, the majority of which have ended in Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a frequent target of PEGIDA jeers, repudiated the gathering by joining a parallel march of an estimated 100,000 in favor of religious and racial tolerance. Islam "belongs to Germany," she said before the gathering, adding that it would be "humanly reprehensible" to exclude certain groups from society.
Getty Images' Sean Gallup was present at the Dresden rally and spoke with some of the demonstrators.
A man who identified himself as Winfried told Gallup that he supported PEGIDA "not because we're fascists or Nazis or have anything in common with people like that, but because after all we need to limit the masses of war refugees arriving in Germany. We need an immigration law."
"A homeless German doesn't need asylum seekers," said the individual above, who identified himself only as Stefen.
"We're here for our children," Artem, who was photographed with his son Tyson, explained.
Another individual, who asked to remain anonymous, told Gallup that he was at the rally because he wanted Germany to remain German.
PEGIDA's growing influence has spilled over to neighboring Switzerland, a country that has turned increasingly conservative and anti-immigrant over the last few years despite a celebrated history of tolerance. A Facebook page for the Swiss PEGIDA offshoot has amassed close to 4,000 likes. According to the country's Federal Office of Statistics, Muslims comprise less than 5 percent of the population.
In neighboring France, where the attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by Islamic extremists sparked the latest wave of anti-Islam rhetoric, there have been dozens of reported anti-Muslim incidents since the tragedy. The country has seen at least 21 reports of shootings or grenade throwings at Islamic buildings, along with 33 reports of threats since last Wednesday, a spokesperson for the monitoring body of the Central Council of Muslims in France told local press.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.