An Assessment of the PEGIDA UK rally

This is a cross-post from The Rambling Infidel

On a rainy Saturday 6th February, Pegida UK launched its inaugural demonstration in Birmingham, with similar rallies happening across Europe. An estimated 200 protesters attended the demonstration, which took place on a barren industrial estate miles from the city centre.

The march was peaceful and went smoothly without incident. No thugs, no fights, no Nazis, no inflammatory speeches. However, the rallies in other European countries did see some trouble with a fight in Dublin and some arrests in Calais.

The new Pegida UK was keen to dispel allegations of racism or of being the EDL 2.0 but without the booze.  They placed warnings on pre-protest information, saying Neo Nazis would not be accepted at the demonstration. Likewise, Tommy Robinson in his speech talked about meeting a man with swastika tattoo on his finger on Friday night, and then said (in an obviously frustrated voice): “six years on and I’m still having to tell you: if you’re a Nazi, if you’re a racist, and you’re watching this – you’re not welcome on the streets in the UK with us.”

Moreover, the people who attended the demonstration were not a singular, unitary, monolithic bloc.  One protester NOTA Network interviewed said he came because he was worried about English identity and culture being threatened by Islam. Another one said he was not against “all immigration” but wanted “limited immigration”. And another protester said he was here to “defend free speech”. It would be slightly unwise to arrogantly dismiss them all as racists and xenophobes, though that doesn’t mean they were liberal democrats either.

There was not anything that struck me as worryingly racist in the interviews we did or at the rally generally. I say this as a black man who was with my friend Sam Sholli, who is of Iranian stock. We did not feel like we were in danger or anyone was racist towards us. They just seem to be people that are fed up with a status quo that is not working for them and their communities.

Their claim to being a multi-racial movement is questionable, because aside from me and Sam Sholli (my NOTA Network colleague) there was only one other non-white person at the rally. So they do still have that obstacle to overcome where ethnic minorities would feel comfortable associating themselves with Pegida UK. I doubt this this will change anytime soon.

Yes, there was no racism (at least in its common understanding). BUT…..

That doesn’t quite get them off the hook. There were still illiberal sentiments present at the rally. For example, many protesters held placards featuring Donald Trump’s image saying ‘Trump is right’. This possibly is an implicit endorsement of the hopeful presidential nominee’s call to halt all Muslim immigration into the United States. If this is the case then this is simplistic and objectively bigoted, because it views Muslims as a monolithic bloc who all think in the same way. There were other sorts of unsophisticated propaganda, like other placards saying ‘Rape culture is being imported’ and ‘Islamism = Nazism’.

Do read the rest of the post – which includes reports of interviews with Tommy Robinson, Anne Marie Waters and Paul Weston here.