Anti-Islam ‘hate’ rally at Princes street Gardens

A counter-demonstration held adjacent to the rally by the UK branch of the German group Pegida in Newcastle. Picture: AFP/Getty
A counter-demonstration held adjacent to the rally by the UK branch of the German group Pegida in Newcastle. Picture: AFP/Getty
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A GROUP which campaigns against what it calls the “Islamification of Europe” is planning to hold its first Scottish demonstration in the centre of Edinburgh.

Pegida Scotland says it is in talks with the police about a rally in Princes Street Gardens later this month.

It would be very disappointing if it goes ahead in the Lothians.”

Foysol Choudhury

Members, who formed in Dresden, Germany, have been accused by the country’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, of having “prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”.

A leading equality chief said today that such groups were not welcome in a “multicultural” Edinburgh.

According to the Pegida Scotland Facebook page, there are plans for an evening demonstration on March 21, which will come a week after a planned Scottish Defence League march in Holyrood.

In a message posted last month, the group said: “We have now put together a fantastic team. We hope you will be a little patient – things will start to move now everything is in place. Our mission is simple – rid our island of Islam.”

About 400 members of Pegida UK held a largely peaceful march in Newcastle at the weekend which was met by a 2000-strong counter demonstration.

A spokesman for the group in Scotland said: “We’re just a bunch of like-minded people who are against the Islamification of Europe.

“We won’t tolerate any neo-Nazi elements creeping in, we’re totally against that. We’re in contact with the German organisers quite a lot.

“There isn’t a group in Scotland like this. There are groups who try to highlight it, but they go about it the wrong way. We won’t be going into any areas to cause racial tensions.”

Foysol Choudhury, chairman of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, called on the authorities to prevent the demonstration from taking place.

He said: “I am worried and fearful that this is going to create more problems in society.

“The authorities should look at it properly before giving permission for it to happen.

“It would be very disappointing if it goes ahead in the Lothians. We are known as a multicultural society here in Edinburgh which welcomes all sorts of immigrants who come here in the proper way.”

Pegida, an acronym which translates as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, initially came to prominence in Germany, where the group has held demonstrations attended by thousands.

Five people were arrested during Saturday’s event in Newcastle after a brief scuffle which temporarily damaged Pegida’s PA system. Northumbria Police said 375 people were on the Pegida rally while 2000 joined the Newcastle Unites counter-protest, including Respect MP George Galloway.

A city council spokeswoman said it had not received a notification from Pegida about a planned event in the city, but said some static demonstrations did not require a licence.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “There are numerous demonstrations in Edinburgh each year and events are policed appropriately and proportionately to allow for lawful protest and to minimise the impact on the public.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com