Thousands rally at German protest against refugees, Islam

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) — Thousands of Germans took part Monday in a protest organized by the anti-Islam group PEGIDA, almost one year after it held its first rally in the eastern city of Dresden.

Police declined to provide a crowd count for the protest, which passed peacefully. An AP reporter estimated the crowd at about 7,000-8,000.

Speakers including PEGIDA co-founder Lutz Bachmann denounced the decision of German Chancellor Angela Merkel government’s decision to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“They are leading us straight into a European civil war,” Bachmann told the crowd in front of Dresden’s famous Semperoper opera house. Protesters responded with chants of “Merkel must go” and calls to deport refugees. One protester carried a mock gallows with two hangman’s nooses, marked “Reserved for Angela Merkel” and “Reserved for Sigmar Gabriel,” her deputy.