Anti-Muslim hate fuels large rally in Germany

DRESDEN, Germany -- Long before the terror attacks in Paris, anti-Muslim prejudice was on the rise in Europe. It was underscored Thursday during an anti-Islamic rally in Dresden, Germany.

"We are the people," they chant. But this isn't a chant about a society being united. This is a chant of exclusion.

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An anti-Muslim rally in Dresden, Germany CBS News

They're part of a movement protesting what they see as the threat to German culture from rising numbers of Muslim immigrants to their country. Chancellor Angela Merkel may have said Islam is part of Germany now, but not to these people.

They point to the events in France as justification. Felix Menzel runs a right-wing magazine that supports the anti-immigrant cause.

"Is there an 'I told you so' quality to this?" I asked.

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Felix Menzel CBS News

"Yes that's the scenario that they spoke about in the last weeks," Menzel answered.

The weekly demonstrations have grown over the past months from a few hundred to somewhere around 20,000. But so has opposition to them. Other demonstrators tried to block the path of the anti-immigrant marchers, saying Germany should welcome Muslim refugees.

"Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here," they chanted. But the marchers simply moved around them.

There were calls for this demonstration to be cancelled out of deference to the victims in France and to let passions cool. But it went ahead anyway and it was big.

Werner Patzelt of Dresden University says the marchers' sentiments are misguided.

"They stir up un-delicious opinions and feelings," Patzelt told me. "Ugly is maybe the proper expression for what can be seen and felt."

The police crowd estimate for Monday's crowd was 25,000 which would make it the biggest of the anti-immigrant demonstrations so far, but still smaller than the numbers of pro-immigrant demonstrators who have been out on the streets across Germany. This is a battle of ideals, but also, a battle of numbers.

  • Mark Phillips
    Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.