Germany/PEGIDA – The night of the 14 Oct 15 in the Einsiedel district of Chemnitz, a city in the eastern state of Saxony, a barricade set up by local citizens was still standing, as it had been for the past 48 hours. Once again, hundreds of people had gathered on Anton Hermann Strasse, which leads straight past pretty burgher houses up to a camp that used to belong to the Pioneers, the East German equivalent of the Boy and Girl Scouts. Those manning the barricade weren't letting anyone through who wasn't obviously recognizable as a local resident. The improvised checkpoint in front of a hotel was occupied around the clock.
An entry on the Facebook page for the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (more commonly known by its acronym, Pegida) had claimed last Monday (12 Oct 15) that buses packed with "invaders" were making their way toward the camp. In response, local residents blocked the only road to the planned refugee accommodations -- and Saxony police did nothing to stop them.
Last Wednesday, more than a thousand people marched silently through the rain in the suburban district, walking past slogans spray painted on walls like, "Protect our Homeland." One hollered through a megaphone that the resistance would continue "as long as needed." Then the speaker thanked "Pegida Chemnitz-Erzgebirge," without whom none of this would be possible. Locals then cheered. "Thank God," one resident sighed. "I was afraid this wasn't going to continue."
But it is continuing. Pegida is back, apparently more powerful than ever. For a time, the movement had disappeared almost entirely from public view. Its founders had fallen out with each other and Pegida head Lutz Bachmann even had to temporarily step down from his chairmanship after the tabloid daily Bild published a picture of him posing for a photo as Hitler. Attendance at Pegida protests, which has taken place every Monday in Dresden and other cities for almost a year had waned to the point of insignificance. But a week ago on Monday, some 10,000 people took to the streets of Dresden, almost as many as during the peak of the protests last winter.
Words Followed By Action
This time, though, there's more to it than just peaceful protests, as the street blockade in Einsiedel demonstrates. The movement is also becoming more radical. On Monday night, thousands of Pegida demonstrators marched through Dresden shouting out epithets like, "deport, deport" against the refugees, "We're the people," and "Merkel must go." One sign showed Merkel as Mother Teresa (a play on a recent SPIEGEL cover), but with the headline, "Mother Terroresia." Other signs were directed against "German haters," the "asylum mafia," and the "politician pack," a reference to Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's recent strong condemnation of right-wing, anti-refugee protesters. One protestor even carried a mock gallows with nooses attached to signs indicating they were reserved for Merkel and Gabriel. And Pegida co-founder Bachmann described the German government in a speech as "our dictators in Berlin."
On Tuesday (13 Oct 15), a spokesperson with the Dresden Public Prosecutor's Office said an investigation had been opened into unknown perpetrators in response to the gallows stunt, on possible charges of disturbing the public peace through incitement to criminal behavior. "This should make clear that there are limits to the right to assemble and freedom of speech," a spokesperson for the office told public broadcaster MDR on Tuesday.
Pegida currently appears to be profiting from the volatile atmosphere created by the refugee debate in Germany. Political positions once the exclusive domain of populist demagogues like Bachmann are now being adopted even by politicians within Merkel's mainstream conservative Christian Democrats, which in turn serves as an invitation for Pegida's supporters to become even more radical.
Tatjana Festerling, a candidate representing the Pegida movement who scored almost 10 percent of the vote in Dresden mayoral elections in June, recently claimed at a demonstration recently, "We're already at war." On Monday of this week, she described Merkel as the most dangerous woman in Europe and called for a "Säxit," Saxony's secession from Germany.
Pegida began as a diffuse "movement of outrage," says Dresden-based political scientist Hans Vorländer. But now it has found more precise targets: the refugee issue and Chancellor Merkel. He says the rhetoric from the group has become totally uninhibited.
In earlier days, Pegida members often derided the media as the "lying press," but those calls, increasingly, are being supplanted by actual physical attacks on journalists. Two weeks ago, Pegida supporters attacked journalists with MDR and the Dresdner Neuesten Nachrichten newspaper, with one reporter getting punched in the face. Officials at MDR, which is the public broadcaster for Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, have reported insults, vandalism and physical attacks by Pegida supporters at all of their state studios and say the number of incidents is growing, particularly in Saxony. The "growing aggressiveness" toward its employees, officials say, is a "new experience."
In the right-wing magazine Compact, Jürgen Elsässer, a writer who speaks at Pegida events, issued a call to arms to Germany's armed forces to resist the government. "In this situation, it is up to you, soldiers of the Bundeswehr: Fulfill your oath and protect the German people and the liberal and democratic order! Occupy the border stations, above all the border train stations, and close all possible crossings, particularly from the South. Don't wait for orders from above!"
At the very least, the movement is conducting "discursive arson," warns political scientist Vorländer, adding that Pegida is "paving the way" for more radical behavior. In a current situation report, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Germany's answer to the FBI, writes that agitation from the right is having a "catalyzing effect." During the first nine months of this year, the BKA registered more than 400 attacks on asylum-seeker hostels. For all of 2014, there were only around 200 such attacks.
The path from words to actions appears to be getting shorter and shorter, as illustrated by Pegida's "We'll help build the border" initiative. Announced for the first time in early October in the Saxon town of Sebnitz -- a place that is also the site of anti-refugee protests -- the action is expected to continue in Bavaria. Hundreds of "wire mesh fence" enthusiasts have set up an event using Facebook for Nov. 8 to seal off the German border on their own. One of the ringleaders is Michael Viehmann, a former supermarket worker from the western city of Kassel, who was also involved in the protests in Sebnitz. November 8, it should be noted, was the date that Adolf Hitler launched his failed "Beer Hall Putsch" in 1923.
Last year, Viehmann established a Pegida offshoot in a western German state. He is also known to have participated in "Hooligans against Salafists" events in the past and became the subject of a criminal complaint after posting hate speech on the web. He allegedly incited against Jews on Facebook and blustered that, hopefully, "soon a revolution will break out and the whole pack of German politicians will have their skulls bashed in."
Flirting with Neo-Nazis
Viehmann appealed and a local court must now decide the case. But his past didn't do much to halt his rise within the allegedly peaceful protest movement. On the contrary, Viehmann is now part of Pegida Germany's inner circle.
The degree with which Pegida is blurring the lines between itself and extremist right-wing groups is apparent in its offshoots in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, which have long been dominated by neo-Nazis. Munich, where a Pegida association was established earlier this year "to promote the rights of civilians," provides another example. The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe has opened an investigation into the head of the Munich group, Heinz Meyer, under the suspicion of establishing a terrorist organization. Meyer, who says the accusation is "baseless," is believed to have had contact with Martin Wiese, a notorious neo-Nazi and convicted right-wing terrorist.
Even apart from Meyer, members of Pegida in Bavaria don't seem terribly discerning when it comes to choosing their leaders. Other members of the Munich Pegida board include a former candidate for the federal parliament with the xenophobic, neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) and an old friend of Michael Stürzenberger, a key figure in the anti-Islam blog Politically Incorrect, (PI) known for the increasingly rabid methods he uses to incite his readers.
Last week, Politically Incorrect called on its readers to hunt down Angela Merkel, "the monster." It said all German citizens should blow into whistles or horns each day at 6 p.m. and to chant "Merkel must go!" The people behind Politically Incorrect say the "resistance" follows in the tradition of attempted Hitler assassin Claus von Stauffenberg. Like von Stauffenberg, they argue, the question "we" are facing today is: "Do we want to simply look on as our leadership destroys us?"
In Bavaria, officials at the state chapter of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which monitors extremist activity, are speaking of a "massive verbal escalation" on the part of the anti-Muslim scene. The agency found it of particular concern that that the right-wing extremists had clearly begun reaching previously untainted people with their "campaigns of hate." This group, too, could become a future source of "xenophobia-inspired attacks," they warn. The closing of ranks between right-wing extremist parties and German citizens irate over the refugee influx is a phenomenon that is worrying officials at virtually every domestic intelligence agency in the country. Now officials at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution are hoping to find ways to track down ringleaders of the NPD and other neo-Nazi parties like Die Rechte ("the Right") and The Third Way and to find ways to unsettle the scene.
"Something is heading our way," says one high-ranking member of German domestic intelligence. "We need to try and stop it."
Pegida – Patriotische Europaer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident). (Occident – The quarter of the sky where the heavenly bodies set; The West. Opposite to the Orient)
Pegida, is a German anti-Islamic political movement founded in Dresden in October 2014. It organized weekly demonstrations from October 2014 to February 2015 against what it considers the Islamisation of the Western world, calling for more restrictive immigration rules, particularly for Muslims. It seeks to alter German immigration legislation so that it becomes similar to Australian immigration programs and Canadian immigration categories. Offshoots of Pegida were formed in various countries. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegida)
Logo – The colours of the capital letters of the group are normally found in neo-Nazi group logos, flags and symbols but in other groups the red symbolises revolution, war, bloodshed and victory. The black symbolises a morning for those lost in the struggle. Although there is nothing written about the name and colours of the group’s logo these observations have been taken from observing similar far-right groups.
Germany's intelligence agencies have expressed serious concerns over the huge influx of migrants harbouring extremist views, it has been reported on the 29 Oct 15. A security document has warned of the damaging consequences of Berlin's open-door policy which is expected to see around one million refugees enter the country this year alone. It read: 'We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples as well as a different societal and legal understanding.' Security sources also fear the integration of migrants 'is no longer possible' because so many already live in isolated communities. Migrants wait at the central registration centre in Berlin. Germany's security services have expressed concern that the country is 'importing' Islamic extremism by allowing so many refugees into the country. The document, seen by German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, added: 'German security agencies... will not be in the position to solve these imported security problems and thereby the arising reactions from Germany's population.' A senior level security official also told the paper that 'the high influx of people from all parts of the world will lead to instability in our land', it was reported by The Jerusalem Post. The official added: 'Mainstream civil society is radicalising because the majority don't want migration and they are being forced by the political elite.' The concerns have been voiced by the four major security agencies in Germany – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Federal Intelligence Service, the Federal Police and Federal Criminal Police Office. Germany – which is braced for around one million asylum seekers this year – has seen a spike in violence at registration centres in recent weeks as conditions deteriorate and tempers boil over. Over the weekend, police sprayed left-wing protesters with a water cannon to keep them apart from an anti-Islam demonstration by a far-right group in western Germany.
Spain – Spanish and Moroccan forces were on the 26 Oct 15 searching for the three missing crew members of a Spanish air force helicopter who may have been kidnapped by pirates after their aircraft ditched into the Atlantic off the coast of Western Sahara. The whereabouts of the three crew members of the Super Puma search and rescue helicopter, which went down 280 nautical miles south of its Canary Islands base, remain shrouded in mystery four days after Thursday’s (22 Oct 15) accident after initial reports suggested the men had been successfully rescued and were in the hands of authorities from Morocco, the country which governs the disputed Western Sahara territory. The helicopter went down shortly after making a technical stop in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, when it was heading northward towards its base in Gran Canaria. On the 24 Oct 15) Spain’s defence ministry said that the three crew had been rescued and were being taken to shore in a Moroccan patrol vessel. The information came from the Moroccan government, but later it was revealed that it was not confirmed. The possibility that the three crewmen had instead been picked up by a fishing vessel began to emerge. The alert went up at 1600 hrs Spanish time on the 22 Oct 15 after the helicopter’s electronic beacon was activated. Three and a half hours later the crew of a Moroccan search and rescue helicopter reported that they had located the stricken craft floating on the surface with its life raft next to it. But they could not confirm whether the three crew members were present or not, and it is unclear whether any vessel subsequently reached the crash site. Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Morenés on the 26 Oct 15 admitted that kidnapping was “one of the hypotheses” being investigated, while military sources said the possibility that the three men had died inside the helicopter had almost been ruled out. As well as continuing to look for the wreckage, Spanish and Moroccan forces are stopping and checking vessels in the area, and undertaking searches in Western Saharan ports. The defence minister said this will probably be extended down the West Africa coast, including areas where pirates are known to operate. The ministry believes the helicopter crashed due to a technical problem.
United Kingdom/Northern Ireland – All the main republican and loyalist paramilitary groups still exist and have committed murders since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the independent assessment stated on the 21 Oct 15. The panel said "the structures of (Provisional Irish Republican Army) PIRA remain in existence in a much reduced form" but those that remain include "a senior leadership, the "Provisional Army Council" and some "departments". It warned individual members of paramilitary groups represented "a threat to national security". But the three-member panel appointed by the Government also found the leaderships of the groups were "committed to peaceful means to achieve their political objectives". While not actively recruiting or rearming, it said IRA members believed the Army Council "oversees both PIRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy", although it has a "wholly political focus". PIRA members remain engaged in criminality for personal gain, such as fuel smuggling and money laundering but "the PIRA of the Troubles era is well beyond recall," they concluded. "It is our firm assessment that PIRA's leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means," said the trio appointed to conduct the security review - former independent reviewer of UK terror laws Lord Carlile, former senior civil servant Rosalie Flanagan and barrister Stephen Shaw. They also stressed the severe threat that continues from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process. And a week after the three main loyalist paramilitary groups announced an initiative to reverse the perceived "neglect" of loyalist working class communities, the report said the UVF had shown "some indications of recruitment". But although the leadership has "attempted to steer its membership towards peaceful initiatives", a larger number of members, including senior figures, are "extensively involved in organised crime" including paramilitary assaults. The UDA (Ulster Defence Association) was assessed as "increasingly fragmented" but some members remain involved in criminality and violence, including drug dealing, robbery, extortion, paramilitary assaults, street disorder and violent protest. Presenting the report in Parliament, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: "Paramilitary organisations have no place in a democratic society, they should disband, they brought misery and suffering throughout the Troubles." The report was commissioned after the DUP Democratic Unionist Party) announced a boycott of the Executive and began a protest involving rolling resignations by most of its ministers. The move followed the arrest of senior republican Bobby Storey, who was later released without charge, following the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August. The (Police Service Northern Ireland) PSNI Chief Constable said IRA members were involved in the McGuigan murder in Belfast - a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison (47) earlier in the year. Alliance said the report presented challenges for both Sinn Fein and the unionist parties. Trevor Lunn MLA said: "Unionist parties, meanwhile, need to seriously reflect on the findings around loyalist paramilitaries. US Envoy Gary Hart said: "This report underscores the importance of countering paramilitarism and organised crime so that the rule of law can be applied fairly."
Britain's spy chief has warned that dreaded terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) is planning mass casualty attacks in the country as he underlined the need for greater surveillance power' to avert any possible attack in a statement released on the 30 Oct 15. "In a range of attacks in Europe and elsewhere, this year we have seen greater ambition for mass casualty attacks. All of this means that the threat we are facing today is on a scale and at a tempo that I have not seen before in my career," MI5 director-general Andrew Parker said. He also said that his agents had "thwarted six attempts at terrorist attacks in the UK in the last year, and several plots overseas. "We are seeing plots against the UK directed by terrorists in Syria; enabled through contacts with terrorists in Syria; and inspired online by ISIL's [ISIS] sophisticated exploitation of technology. "It uses the full range of modern communications tools to spread its message of hate, and to inspire extremists, sometimes as young as teens, to conduct attacks in whatever way they can," he said. "More than 750 extremists from this country have travelled to Syria, and the growth in the threat shows no sign of abating," he said. Parker also sought to underline the importance of communications interception, in a direct reference to a new investigatory powers bill planned by the UK government and highlighted the need for greater powers of surveillance in averting terrorist attacks. "We do not seek sweeping new intrusive powers in that legislation, but rather a modern legal framework that reflects the way that technology has moved on, and that allows us to continue to keep the country safe," he said. The scale of the threat meant MI5 had to update its "toolbox" of methods to fight terrorists, including using computer attacks, according to the spy chief. He said: "This includes the ability to conduct operations online and to mount IT attacks (known as equipment interference), under a warrant authorised by the Home Secretary, against terrorist networks, so that we can access their communications."