Anti-Islam groups rally across Europe

2016-02-06 21:59
A man is handcuffed after being detained by Dutch police during anti-Islam protests in Amsterdam. (Peter Dejong, AP)

A man is handcuffed after being detained by Dutch police during anti-Islam protests in Amsterdam. (Peter Dejong, AP)

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Dresden - Protesters rallied against Islam and immigration in several European cities on Saturday, sometimes clashing with police or counter-demonstrators, amid growing tensions over the massive influx of asylum-seekers to the continent.

Riot police clashed with demonstrators in Amsterdam as supporters of the anti-Islam group Pegida tried to hold their first protest meeting in the Dutch capital. Only about 200 Pegida supporters were present, outnumbered by police and left-wing demonstrators who shouted, "Refugees are welcome, fascists are not!"

Riot police detained several people as officers on horseback intervened to separate the two groups of demonstrators. It was not immediately clear how many people were detained.

Police in Germany expected about 15 000 people at a Pegida rally in Dresden, with 10 000 others in a counter-demonstration on the other side of the Elbe River that divides the city.

The group, whose German acronym stands for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West," has become a magnet for far-right and anti-immigrant sentiment since it was founded in Dresden two years ago. After a drop in attendance last spring, the group saw a rise in support from people angered by the unprecedented influx into Europe of refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Aside from its nationalist and anti-Islam stance, the group has also sided strongly with Russia. Several Russian flags were flown at Saturday's rally in Dresden, along with banners including "Peace with Russia" and "Stop war against Syria."

Smaller Pegida-style protests were also taking place in France, Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Denmark, Finland and Estonia.

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