Pegida rally: storm around HOcke

Pegida rally: storm around Höcke

© Robert Michael / dpa
Pegida demonstrators wave Germany flags in front of the Frauenkirche on Dresden’s Neumarkt.

The Thuringian AfD head of state is celebrated at Pegida in Dresden. But he is also opposed by thousands of protests – now also from new camps.

In Dresden there have been many hot rallies in recent years. But rarely did the camps collide as closely as on this Monday evening on Neumarkt, right in front of the Frauenkirche. It is the 200th gathering of Pegida, as a guest of honor, the radical right-wing alliance presents the Thuringian AfD country chief BjOrn HOcke. Pegidas motto: “The Thuringian earthquake comes to Saxony.” HOcke is supposed to talk about the election of the FDP man Thomas Kemmerich with AfD votes; Pegida calls it a stroke of genius.

Several thousand people are spread across three rallies on the Neumarkt, only a few meters apart from one another by police officers. BjOrn is in the Pegida warehouse HOcke celebrated like a star. In the meantime, Pegida has shrunk to a hard core of a few hundred people on most of the Mondays, and an estimated 3,000 followers have come for the anniversary. But this site also echoes for hours of protest, divided into two further rallies, each with about 2,500 people. It is a loud, sometimes chaotic evening where a lot of things get mixed up.

The wind from Thuringia blows as far as Saxony and has rearranged some things. There have always been protests against the Pegida rallies in the past five years, but recently it was often only small, persistent groups and leftist alliances that gathered regularly on Mondays. This time the protest is much bigger – and new camps have joined. Now the CDU and FDP are also there. However, Pegidas counter-protest is not united, they are spread over two blocks. The message is the same: against Pegida, against BjOrn HOcke. The tone is a little different here and there.

Björn Höcke speaking at the 200th Pegida rally

© AFP / Getty Images
BjOrn HOcke speaking at the 200th Pegida rally

At CDU and FDP, flanked by urban associations and societies, “joy of beautiful spark of gods” runs. The Saxon Prime Minister too Michael Kretschmer supports the protest, but cannot be seen this evening, but on vacation. His CDU general secretary and a CDU minister are present as speakers, as are FDP politicians. On stage one hears a speaker say: “Today we stand together on the square, knowing that our expressions are different, but our goals are the same.” Another says: “Many of you certainly have no experience with demonstrations of this kind. But we have to do something together against demagogues. We are dealing with intellectual arsonists. We must not be indifferent.” On the other side of the square, in the left Pegida protest camp, the crowd is drumming and whistling. There are chants: “Alerta, alerta” and “Nationalism out of your mind.” When Pegida takes a short walk through the city, someone suggests a blockade.

Pegida and the AfD

There is a long wait for BjOrn HOcke at Pegida. Then he arrives in a limousine behind the rally car and is greeted with frenetic chants. HOcke never went at a distance from Pegida. He has enjoyed showing up for years with the Pegida tour around Lutz Bachmann and was already on the stage as a speaker. This Monday evening, too, you are greeted with friendship. Also to be seen from the close circle around HOcke: the publisher GOtz Kubitschek and the Brandenburg AfD country chief Andreas Kalbitz. Animosities towards Pegida from parts of the AfD federal leadership play no role in Dresden. The federal chairman JOrg Meuthen was cautious about HOcke’s appearance at Pegida. In an interview with Berlin-direkt he said that this appearance was “not conducive to the reputation of the party”. The Saxon AfD regional association, however, called for participation in Pegida. “Strengthen BjOrn HOcke’s back.” It was all the more important, it said in a message, “when this time not only the usual professional demonstrators call for protests, but also explicitly the CDU and its boss Kretschmer – an unabashed cheek.”

BjOrn HOcke speaks for half an hour, you don’t hear a keynote in which he strikes new notes, but his well-known repertoire. He says of the counter-demonstrators: “In the background you can see the victims of the German educational catastrophe.” They are also involved in clubs that will no longer be tolerated. “Unfortunately, we will then have to drain this so-called civil society.” HOcke calls the concentrated counter-protest “a new national front that is forming there”. He says of Thuringia: “We have voted out the cuddly left Ramelow.” And: “The reactions of the consensus democrats are breaking the dam for me.”

In a few moments, Pegida supporters and protesters come dangerously close. People break out of both camps, face each other with clenched fists, scream at each other. “HOcke is a Nazi,” calls a man. He is immediately surrounded by people from the Pegida camp who insult him: “He is not a Nazi at all. You are one!” The police find it difficult to keep an overview and to be on the spot in such confrontations. In some moments it was extremely close, but there were no major clashes during the evening.


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