An estimated 1,000 people were protesting the launch of the anti-Islam group Pegida’s first Irish branch. Pegida stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West. The group was established in Germany last year. Their emergence is an example of the growing animosity toward the immigrant population of Europe, in the face of mass migration which so many people have recently been forced into.
Pegida supporters were to meet at 3pm at the GPO to rally, and were met by an opposing crowd of activists composed of anti-racism and Muslim groups, including a Trinity student contingent.
Speaking to Trinity News, student Rory O’Neill, a member of the Trinity Socialist Workers’ Student Society (SWSS), who was present during the clashes, clarified that: “There were a lot of Trinity students, yeah… The SWSS bloc was about five of us, mostly Trinity, as part of a wider SWP/PBPA (Socialist Workers’ Party/People Before Profit Alliance) delegation.”
When questioned about the motivations behind demonstrating, O’Neill explained: “We weren’t attacking Pegida, we were asserting that they weren’t welcome to hold a rally or organise on our streets… The goal wasn’t to cause a violent confrontation, it was to demonstrate that they wouldn’t be allowed gather and hold a rally at which they would spout racist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic politics and organise on this basis.”
Videos of the event circulated on social media and on news sites show police officers beating and threatening the unarmed protesters with batons. In one video, a police officer had to be cautioned and pulled back from the protestors by his colleague after attempting to strike several individuals. It was confirmed by RTE that a cameraman employed by them had been injured, and that the broadcaster is to make a formal complaint about the incident.
According to The Irish Independant, one group of approaching Pegida supporters was “chased back down Talbot Street by a splinter group, some wearing masks and chanting, ‘Fascist scum, off our streets.’” They also reported that: “A security guard at a shop on Talbot Street described how a group of 15-20 men chased a man into the shop and began beating him.”
O’Neill claimed that: “The anti-fascist demonstrators were following the standard policy of ‘No Platform for Fascists.’ This isn’t just a rhetorical or moral slogan, it means physically preventing fascists from organising and holding events on our streets.” He continued that: “This is crucial because when they’re granted the legitimacy and space to organise, they have the opportunity to grow and spread their hatred and racist filth.”