There have been many hot rallies in Dresden in recent years. But rarely did the camps collide as closely as on this Monday evening on Neumarkt, right in front of the Frauenkirche. It is the 200th meeting of Pegida, as a guest of honor the right-wing radical alliance presents the Thuringian AFD country chief Björn Höcke. Pegida's motto: "The Thuringian earthquake comes to Saxony." Höcke should talk about the election of the FDP man Thomas Kemmerich withAfD votes, at Pegida it is called a stroke of genius.
Several thousand people at three rallies stand on the Neumarkt, only a few meters apart from one another by police officers. Björn Höcke is celebrated like a star in the Pegida warehouse. In the meantime, Pegida has shrunk to a hard core of a few hundred people on most of the assemblies, and an estimated 3,000 followers came for the anniversary. But this site also echoes for hours against protests, divided into two further rallies, each with about 2,500 people. It is a loud, sometimes chaotic evening with a lot of things swirling around.
Björn Höcke speaking at the 200th Pegida rally © AFP / Getty Images
The wind from Thuringia blows to Saxony and has reorganized some. There have always been protests against the Pegida rallies in the past five years, but in the end it was often only small, persistent groups and leftist alliances that gathered regularly on Mondays. This time the protest is much bigger - and there are new camps connected. Now the CDU and FDP are also there. However, Pegida's counter-protest is not united, it has been divided into two blocks. The embassy is the same: Against Pegida, against Björn Höcke. The tone is slightly different here and there.
At CDU and FDP, flanked by urban associations and societies, "joy of beautiful spark of gods" runs. Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer also supports the protest, but is not seen on this evening, but on vacation. His CDU general secretary and a CDU minister are present as speakers, as are FDP politicians. On stage one hears a speaker say: "Today we stand together on the square, knowing that our expressions are different, but our goals are the same." Another says: "Many of you may not have had any experience with demonstrations of this kind. But we have to do something together against demagogues. We are dealing with arsonists. We cannot be indifferent." On the other side of the square, in the left Pegida protest camp, the crowd is drumming and whistling. There are chants: "Alerta, alerta" and "Nationalism out of your mind." When Pegida goes for a short walk through the city, someone suggests blocking the seat.
Pegida and the AfD
There is a long wait for Björn Höcke at Pegida. Then he arrives in a limousine behind the rally car and is greeted with frenetic chants. Höcke walked away from Pegida. He has enjoyed showing up for years with the Pegida tour around LutzBachmann and has been on the stage as a speaker. On this Monday evening, too, people greet each other in a friendly manner. Also to be seen from the close circle around Hecke: the publisher Götz Kubitschek and the Brandenburg AfD regional director Andreas Kalbitz. Animosity towards Pegida from parts of the AfD federal lace games in Dresden does not matter. The federal chairman Jörg Meuthen was cautious about Höcke's appearance at Pegida. In an interview with Berlin-direkt he said that this appearance was "not conducive to the reputation of the party". The Saxon AFD regional association, however, called for participation in Pegida. "Strengthen BjörnHocken's back." It was all the more important, it said in a message, "this time not only call the usual professional demonstrators to protest, but also explicitly the CDU and its boss Kretschmer - an unabashed cheek."
Björn Höcke speaks for half an hour, you don't hear a general speech in which he strikes new tones, but rather his well-known repertoire. About the counter-demonstrators, he says: "In the background you can see the victims of the German educational catastrophe." They are also involved in clubs that they will no longer tolerate. "Unfortunately, we will then have to drain this so-called civil society." Höcke calls the concentrated counter-protest "a new national front that is forming there". He says of Thuringia: "We have deselected Ramelow's cuddly links." And: "For me, the reactions of the consensus democrats are breaking the dam."
In a few moments, Pegida fans and protesters get dangerously close. People break out of both camps, face each other with clenched fists, scream at each other. "Höcke is a Nazi," calls a man. He is immediately surrounded by people from the Pegida camp who insult him: "He is not a Nazi at all. You are one!" The police find it difficult to keep an overview and to be on the spot in such confrontations. In some moments it was extremely close, but there were no major clashes in the course of the evening.