With the launch of Pegida UK just weeks away the leaders, EDL founder Stephen Lennon, (aka Tommy Robinson), Liberty GB leader Paul Weston, and Sharia Watch UK Director Anne Marie Waters, made their way to a freezing Copenhagen to try and build support for a Danish branch of the anti-Islam group that was originally formed in Dresden, Germany.
Strangely today’s demonstration in Denmark was organised from Britain with instructions for the day being posted on the events Facebook page by Jack Buckby, the Press Officer of Pegida UK and Liberty GB. There were no Danish speakers at the event.
Unfortunately for the English trio, just 100 people turned up, which would have no doubt been a disappointment. Among the tiny audience was the leader of the Danish Defence League Lars Grønbæk Larsen and a contingent from the extreme right wing Danmarks Nationale Front.
Also present were a number of Swedes, including Dan Park, the ‘artist’ who has been arrested, fined and sentenced to prison for hate speech. Also over from Sweden was Ingrid Carlqvist, a ‘Distinguished Senior Fellow’ of the US-based Gatestone Institute and editor-in-chief of Dispatch International, a newspaper she founded with a leading Dutch ‘counter-jihad’ activist Lars Hedegaard. Just recently she has written articles about what she calls ‘Afghan ‘Rapefugees’.
After the demonstration Lennon, Weston and Waters went for drinks with Carlqvist in nearby ‘The Scottish Pub’.
As is usual with these types of demonstrations there was a vocal and confrontational counter demonstration by local anti-fascist, which at times drowned out the speeches forcing them to abandon the loud haler and instead opt for a microphone; a switch that took some time.
Lennon’s speech was similar to those he gave in his old EDL days, with talk of a ‘military invasion of Europe’ by Muslims. His speech was followed by a long and slow march through Copenhagen that proved to be eventful. The march was flanked on both sides by anti-fascists chanting ‘Refugees Welcome’ and ‘Where’s your famous EDL?’, forcing the police to use considerable force to hold them back.
Then, as the march turned a corner into a narrow street, Lennon pointed to an anti-fascist screaming at him from behind the police lines and said, ‘come here and say that’. Agreeing to his request the anti-fascist bolted past the police and attacked him. Demonstrators from behind Lennon jumped to his defence followed quickly by baton wielding police.
Once order was restored the march returned to the start point for speeches by Weston and Waters. Weston’s gave a peculiar talk mainly aimed at attacking the counter-demonstrators for being communists followed by some strange conspiratorial claims that the UN was working to destroy all national borders and take control of the world. With so few people in the crowd he seemed to loose his enthusiasm and finished by saying, “that’s enough, I need a pint”.
Waters then took the microphone and gave a speech about women’s rights to a bemused looking audience made up almost exclusively of men. Her speech reached its crescendo with an attack against the ‘so called feminists’ on the counter-demonstration.
The demonstration finished with Lennon urging those present to return to the site on the 6th February to show solidarity with Pegida demonstrations being organised in the UK and across Europe.
The PegidaDK event in two weeks will also have a British presence as Gavin Boby, the self styled ‘Mosque Buster’, being billed to speak.
While the demonstration was a failure in terms of attendance it is further evidence of the genuinely transnational nature of the counter-jihad movement. Activists from the UK organised an event in Denmark where they met with a prominent figure from Sweden. Similarly Lennon met with German activists in Prague in December.
In addition, today confirms the fact that Lennon, following a period of hiatus – partly forced due to prison sentences and partly self-imposed – is well and truly back at the centre of the international ‘counter-jihad’ scene. Today’s speech in Copenhagen comes off the back of appearances at Pegida Dresden, the launch of Pegida Holland and the Anti-Islam Bloc in the Czech Republic.
However, the tiny numbers at today’s event do not show the whole picture. Just last week the Danish government announced plans to further tighten its immigration policy including measures to force refugees to hand over valuables upon their arrival. On Friday, the Danish city of Randers, 210km northwest of Copenhagen, has ordered pork to be mandatory on municipal menus following a council motion proposed by the right wing populist Danish People’s Party.
Similarly tough lines are being taken by governments in central Europe with the Czech President Miloš Zeman even attending a demonstration by the Anti-Islam Bloc in Prague in December. Such acts have made him, along with the PM of Hungary Viktor Orban, heroes of the ‘counter-jihad’ movement. Even today Paul Weston, who vociferously attacked western governments and the EU for their refugee policy, made an exception for the governments of central Europe.
So while it is important to monitor the activities of groups like Pegida – especially as they become more international in their reach – it is imperative not to ignore the wider picture and the increasingly pervasive nature of anti-Muslim sentiment which is no longer just emanating from extremist street protest groups but also from mainstream commentators and Presidents and Prime Ministers of EU countries.
Head of Research
Dr Joe Mulhall is Head of Research at HOPE not hate. Formerly he was a visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London where he also completed his PhD on the postwar far right. He has published extensively on the international far right and discussed his research on the BBC, CNN and Channel 4 News, among others. If you have a tip, get in touch at [email protected]Twitter