Pegida UK is a franchise of the German Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Pegida)/Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the Occident that was formed in October 2014 in Dresden, Saxony (Germany), as a reaction to public concern about violent street clashes between supporters of the Kurdish PKK and Islamist extremists in the city.
Pegida’s targets are Muslims, refugees, the media and mainstream politicians, not least federal chancellor Angela Merkel. Among those addressing its rallies have been the populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders (who has called for the Qu’ran to be banned), the German extreme-rightist Götz Kubitschek, the Turkish extremist author Akif Pirincci and Stephen Lennon (former leader of the anti-Muslim street movement, the English Defence League, and now running Pegida UK).
Until April 2015, when it had begun to falter, Pegida marched almost every Monday evening in Dresden. Starting with 300 people, the demonstrations grew to a peak of 25,000 in January 2015 and led to numerous unsuccessful attempts to replicate them across Germany.
The refugee crisis that commenced in 2015 has come to Pegida’s rescue. It had been in a downward spiral after scandals involving Lutz Bachmann who was pictured dressed as Hitler. This was compounded by competition from the more politically adept and influential right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. However, the 2015 crisis has breathed life back into the movement and demonstration in Dresden reguarlary get thousands of people.
Pegida’s initial successes in Dresden spawned copycat groups around Europe, which all badly flopped. 6th February 2016 will see a further attempt to revive such groups via a series of coordinated demonstration across Europe, one of which is the Pegida UK event in Birmingham.
Pegida UK was initially launched in Newcastle in March 2015 but did not appear to have the full blessing and cooperation of the German parent organisation. Instead of the usual band of suspects who try to occupy any new movement in Britain’s overcrowded far right, a small clique of previously unknown individuals took centre stage.
Although the organisers of the event (aside from Donna Treanor, a London BNP official who had appointed herself as an “adviser”) were relatively unknown, the event in Newcastle did manage to attract everyone from the leader of the British National Party (BNP) Adam Walker to seasoned English Defence League (EDL) activists and jackbooted National Front nazis. With around 300 participants, it was the biggest far-right demonstration in Britain in 2015.
The BNP, EDL and a host of smaller satellite nazi groups attached themselves to the group but it was troubled from the start. By the time Pegida made it to London for a demonstration outside Downing Street in London, it had already taken a very different shape. Members of the EDL dominated the small protest whilst associates of Stephen Lennon skulked in the background.
The organisation collapsed not long afterwards, its early leadership having succumbed to the attractions of internecine disputes and carousing with hardened nazis.
Matthew Pope, who wrestled control of the organisation, then appeared to fall under the spell of Lennon who assured him that he had no interest in leading the group but merely wanted to advise him.
In October 2015, Lennon addressed Pegida’s first anniversary rally in Dresden. Referring to the refugee crisis, he likened the mass movement of people across Europe to the Crusades, telling his 20,000 listeners:
“Our borders are being overrun. There is little or no control.
A country that cannot control its borders will soon not be a country… We need one banner. Save our culture. Save our country. Save our future. Unite to save a future for our children.”
He was also uncompromising in his hostility to Muslims and not just Islamist extremism.
He told the crowd that he wanted a Europe “free from Halal food”, “free from Muslim rape gangs”, free from “the visual scars of minarets” and the “sounds of call to prayer” and free from people “who cover their faces, walk around our streets and refuse to integrate.”
Pope was rapidly shoved aside to make way for Lennon though the former EDL chief was always keen to have a front man to hide behind. In December, he installed former mercenary Timothy Scott as his puppet leader but within twenty-four hours Scott had quit after an extraordinary car-crash interview with Channel Four News exposed his intellectual shortcomings.
With nowhere else to turn, Lennon was back in January of this year with his old friends and co-conspirators, Paul Weston of Liberty GB and Ann Marie Waters of Sharia Watch and UKIP.