Hopes for a peaceful “Day of German Unity” were shattered after hundreds of anti-migrant protesters from the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) movement and right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) gathered in Dresden city center in Germany.
The crowd of chanting demonstrators confronted and heckled Chancellor Angela Merkel outside the Frauenkirche church on Monday at the celebratory event marking the 26th anniversary of the official unification of West and East Germany following the fall of Berlin Wall.
Protesters chanted “Merkel must go,” “traitor of the people” and “get out” as the humanitarian chancellor arrived at the church. Others held signs featuring Merkel dressed in Nazi uniform with the swastikas replaced with Euro signs and proclaimed her as “Merkel Dictator.”
A dark-skinned man who tried to enter the church was bombarded with hate speech as protesters called out to “Deport him!” and labeled him an “ape.”
The shouts continued even after the holiday service ended and the chancellor, along with President Joachim Gauck and Interior Minister Thomas de Maisiere, exited the church.
Merkel, who has won international praise and has been considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, raised the ire of xenophobic parties over her welcoming attitudes toward refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Her liberal migration policies are deemed naïve by opponents who worry not just about the spending and infrastructure required to assimilate asylum seekers into German society but also have concerns over what they dub as “Islamization.”
About 2,600 police officers were deployed for security in the city while sharpshooters were placed on the Semper Opera building on Monday. Around 1,000 guests, including President Gauck, were expected to attend the official ceremony.
“To me, this is still a day of joy, a day of gratitude, but it's also a day that shows us, after 26 years of unity, that new problems await us,” said Merkel in response to the racist protest in her address.
She also called out the protesters who chanted “We are the people,” a slogan coined by Eastern Germans in their peaceful 1989 protests before the fall of the Berlin Wall.