Saturday 17 March 2018

Violent clashes at launch of Irish branch of Pegida

CLASH: Protesters and gardai with battons drawn were involved in scuffles yesterday in Dublin city centre. Photo: Sam Boal/
CLASH: Protesters and gardai with battons drawn were involved in scuffles yesterday in Dublin city centre. Photo: Sam Boal/

Rachel Lavin

Violent clashes broke out in Dublin city centre yesterday where an estimated 1,000 demonstrators turned out on O'Connell Street to protest the launch of the anti-Islam group Pegida in Ireland.

Gardai intervened as a number of people thought to be linked to the group were singled out and attacked by a number of men.

Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, began in Germany last year, largely in response to the European refugee crisis.

As small groups of Pegida supporters approached the GPO from surrounding streets to hold their rally, violent clashes quickly broke out.

Its rally, which was to take place at 3pm outside the GPO in order to mark the launch in Ireland of Pegida's 15th European branch was pre-empted by a peaceful counter demonstration by over 1,000 anti-rascist and Muslim groups.

One group of approaching Pegida supporters was chased back down Talbot Street by a splinter group, some wearing masks and chanting, "Fascist scum, off our streets."

A security guard at a shop on Talbot Street described how a group of 15-20 men chased a man into the shop and began beating him.

Riot police arrived quickly on the scene and pushed the men back up to O'Connell Street as they moved a small number of Pegida members out of the shops and pubs where they had sought refuge during the clashes.

There were particularly violent clashes between over 100 protestors and police as they gathered outside a pub, in which pro-Pegida protestors. were believed to be gathered.

Several city centre shops closed their shutters during the clashes, many of which had customers inside. One elderly woman, who was shopping on Talbot Street when the clashes began, said she was "a little bit shaken" after fights erupted outside the shop she was in, trapping her inside.

Peter O'Loughlin, a member of Identity Ireland and supporter of Pegida, told the Sunday Independent that he was assaulted on the Luas as made he way to the city centre rally. Yesterday evening, he said he was in hospital receiving treatment for a head injury after being hit with a blunt object.

Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, who is chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council and was present at the counter-demonstration, said: "The vast majority of those in the protest today were peaceful. I think (those involved in violence) were a minority."

He condemned the violence saying: "As a member of the Muslim community, we would urge everyone to remain peaceful. It is not the right way to respond with violence - you have to respond with dialogue, even if that is a Pegida member. It is absolutely wrong, we do not condone it."

Sunday Independent

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