Some 350 people gathered without permission in front of Basel cantonal parliament on Wednesday to protest against Germany’s anti-Islam PEGIDA movement. A sizeable and heavily armed police presence monitored the situation.
The police also demanded parliament be closed to the public on Wednesday morning, the first time the public has not been able to watch politicians at work.
The protestors did not have any banners but shouted anti-fascist slogans. No supporters of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) or any other far-right group showed up.
Basel on Wednesday was originally going to be the scene of Switzerland’s first anti-Islam demonstration by PEGIDA. This triggered calls for a counter-rally from Basel’s Young Socialists and the Young Ecologists of northwestern Switzerland.
Last month police banned both demonstrations, citing security concerns.
The PEGIDA movement originated in Germany, where thousands rally regularly in the eastern city of Dresden, raising fears about rightwing radicalisation. PEGIDA almost fizzled out last year when its leader resigned after a photo was published of him posing as Adolf Hitler, but its ranks have swelled as resentment spread of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance to refugees.
The Swiss branch of PEGIDA has so far gained little public attention.
swissinfo.ch and agencies