The Polish branch of the anti-islamification group Pegida have been forced to call off their demonstration due to alleged threats from football hooligans.
As we revealed yesterday, Pegida were to meet in Wroclaw's market square on Saturday at 3pm. The Wroclaw protest, just like the other Pegida demonstrations across 14 European countries, was organised in order to show opposition to illegal immigration.
The Pegida group was born in German city of Dresden, where regular protests against islamification have taken place for some time now. More recently however, the group has expanded into other European countries such as Poland, Ireland and the UK.
Pegida have long sought to distance themselves from extreme far-right groups and football hooligans, encouraging those at their protests to avoid racism and behave appropriately (albeit not entirely successfully). The organisation would therefore appear to represent a more 'civilised' part of the group who oppose taking in more refugees from Arabic countries, especially when compared to the likes of the NOP and the ONR.
However, it seems as though members of extreme right-wing groups have not taken kindly to Pegida's foray into what they consider to be their own territory.
Yesterday afternoon, roughly 24 hours before today's protest was planned to go ahead, Pegida Polska announced that they were cancelling the meeting due to threats from hooligans and far-right groups. Writing on their Facebook event page, Pegida explained the cancelation as follows:
Last night we received a phone call from someone involved in the ultras environment in Wroclaw. This person informed us that in no circumstances can a demonstration under the brand Pegida take place, because Pegida "enters into" the area of Nationalist Organisations in Wroclaw.
We have been accused of covertly desiring the Germanisation of Wroclaw, and thus acting to the detriment of the Polish State.
We were handed an ultimatum to either hand over our demonstration to the Patriotic Movement from Wroclaw or accept the idea that the protest will not take place.
Today in the morning (Friday), we did everything possible to have the event go ahead, we were even willing to hand over the demonstration to the Patriotic Movement, appearing at their own demonstration as a guest. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts and the help of a mediator, we did not event manage to reach this agreement.
People in the patriotic scene of Wroclaw have therefore decided that they will not only refuse to support us, but also do everything they can to destroy our initiative.
In the same statement Pegida also suggested that one of their members and his family had been threatened. In addition to that, Pegida laid blame of Gazeta Wyborcza and Rafał Dutkiewicz for inferring that they were part of the same environment as the far-right groups, something that they believe motivated the extreme right-wingers to interfere with their protest.
Criticism of Pegida can be found on the blog of a select bunch of 'football fans', where most of the articles touch on topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful game. In one article, titled "Stop the Arabs or the Germans?", a blogger clearly shows his opposition to any German group organising a protest in Wroclaw:
Wrocław should be the last place where Germany does anything. Why? Well, because in the eyes of many older Germans and young revisionists, Wrocław is still their "Breslau" and many would have the name "Breslau" returned formally.
The blogger also praised the aforementioned extreme right-wing groups NOP and the ONR, giving a clear indication of where their support lies.
While the issue of Germanisation seems to be the central reason for Wroclaw's 'patriotic' groups clamping down on Pegida, there could be other reasons. The growth of patriotic groups and feelings, particularly among Poland's youth, has given rise to new financial possibilities. Patriotic merchandise is selling better than ever before, while donations are also of crucial importance to these groups. A successful Pegida may have taken a sizeable chunk out of this income stream. However now that Pegida appears to have been crushed before it even got going, this situation is not even remotely likely to happen in any shape or form.
Meanwhile at 2.30pm today at the crossroads between Świdnicka and Oławska, a protest organised by the Wroclaw branch of the Razem and Green poltical parties will go ahead as planned. Run under the banner of "Wroclaw Against Hatred", the demonstration is also expected to attract members of the NOMAD Association, KOD and the LGBT community.