German-based anti-Islam group holds first rally in England
LONDON, United Kingdom — The German-based anti-Islam group PEGIDA held its first rally in Britain Saturday, sparking scuffles as police tried to keep the group away from counterdemonstrators. Five people were arrested.
Police said that about 375 people joined the PEGIDA rally in Newcastle, 290 miles (465 kilometers) north of London. About 2,000 people joined the counterdemonstration.
Police say the arrests were isolated and the event was largely peaceful.
The leader of the Liberty GB political party Paul Weston told the gathering that Muslims will become a majority in Britain in the coming decades and will “take over” the country if they are not challenged.
“That is exactly what they will do if we quietly do nothing,” he told the crowd. “We have to fight back.”
Weston said he was satisfied with the size of the crowd, considering it was PEGIDA’s first meeting in Britain.
Professor Jacqui Rodgers, who took part in the counterdemonstration under the “Newcastle Unites” banner, said Britons won’t accept PEGIDA’s views.
“I think it is really important for us to unite as a community and make it very clear to organizations that are trying to get a foothold in the U.K. that we will not tolerate their attitude and we won’t accept their racist and fascist policies,” she said.
The anti-Islam group appears to have lost momentum in Germany with the number of people attending its rallies dropping in recent months.