Pegida’s first UK march: frightening consequences for British unity?
The Germany-based, right-wing group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West) held its first UK protest on Saturday 28th February, striking up worry and ridicule alike from the general public in the run up to the event.
The growing state of extremism within British communities has been an issue of increasing relevance, but will there be frightening consequences for Britain as a result of this first Pegida march?
After the announcement, many called for the protest to be banned, noting that the German chancellor Angela Merkel has already dubbed the group as racist. Bradford MP George Galloway, who represents the Respect Party, said: “Freedom of speech has its limits. I can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded cinema; no one can racially abuse or threaten another person without legal consequences. So I don’t accept that Pegida, an openly racist party from abroad, has the right to spew hatred on our streets.”
As it transpired, many agreed. Despite Pegida’s “peaceful” demonstration gaining approximately 400 followers, a counter-protest against their “anti-Islamification” message won the numbers battle, with around 2,000 people gathered just 100 yards away in support of multicultural group Newcastle Unites.
Although there were five arrests and one incidence of violence broke out, the two groups were kept relatively separate by police forces. At the rally Matthew Pope, leader of Pegida, spoke about fearing a loss of culture and praised the Brits who came out in support. He also mentioned that the group was negotiating with the Metropolitan police to hold a rally in London in late March.
It is worrying that there was even a single person willing to support such a narrow-minded group such as Pegida. Presently, tensions between communities are high; resultantly, the future stability of British and international society is continuously scrutinised and analysed.
It is crucial that people fight not for the segregation of certain groups, but for their unity. Despite the number of counter-protesters far outnumbering Pegida campaigners, it should be recognised that those in support of the German group have not only chosen to isolate those of an Islamic faith, but have also elected to isolate themselves within British society. Inevitably, this continuance of societal dichotomy could easily lead to more unrest in the near future.
The prospect of further demonstrations from this self-titled “public awareness campaign” group only confirms that extremism is an issue which needs to be addressed in a peaceful and educated manner. Upon Galloway’s calls for the home secretary to “nip this in the bud,” the overwhelming support for the counter-protest in Newcastle inspires hope for an open acceptance of multiculturalism in Britain, in the face of the myriad of unsettling news stories that have plagued the media for many years.
There is a long way to go, but the events of Saturday were a credit to a majority of Newcastle residents who have drawn vital attention to the power of speaking up for a worthy cause.