DRESDEN , Germany, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- A Dresden, Germany, rally protesting Islamic influence in Europe drew 25,000 people Monday, the largest crowd so far.
Organized by an anti-immigration group known by the acronym PEGIDA, Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West, it was the 12th rally in Dresden since the movement started in October with a march of 350 protesters, and the first since terrorist attacks in Paris last week gave impetus to support for controls on immigration to Europe.
Opposition rallies in cities across Germany, protesting PEGIDA's actions, drew over 100,000 people. The Dresden demonstration, organizers announced, was meant as a memorial for those killed in the terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a kosher market in Paris. "Today Paris, tomorrow Dresden" and "Better to stand tall for Pegida today than to be on your knees for Mecca tomorrow" were among the slogans seen on signs carried by the protesters.
The PEGIDA movement builds on victories in local and European Union elections of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is critical of Germany's immigration policy and its involvement in the Euro, and is seen as taking votes from mainstream parties, notably Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
"Politics cannot ignore this: They have to do something, even if it's only symbolic on immigration or security. The CDU must take this seriously. They have to preempt the AfD. Otherwise there will be a stronger momentum building behind the party," Joerg Forbrig of the German Marshall Fund told Bloomberg News.
A pro-tolerance vigil, organized by Germany's Muslim groups, is scheduled for Tuesday in Berlin, and will be attended by Merkel and other leading members of her government. "People who come to us out of deprivation or fear, who need protection, deserve to be treated here with dignity. We need to turn against everything that places into question our fundamental values, the values in our constitution," Merkel said Tuesday.