Anti-Islam PEGIDA rally in Austria dwarfed by counter-demo
The first protest in the Austrian city of Linz by Germany's "anti-Islamisation" movement PEGIDA drew just 150 supporters Sunday and was dwarfed by a counter-demo by some 2,000 people, police said.
A planned PEGIDA march through the centre of the northern city was abandoned after several hundred counter-demonstrators blocked their way, chanting "Auf Wiedersehen" ("Goodbye"), the Austria Press Agency reported.
During a standoff lasting around an hour a few snowballs were thrown there were no incidents of violence. "There were no arrests," a police spokesman told AFP.
He also said that unlike at last Monday's PEGIDA march in Vienna, the first in Austria, police did not see any raised-arm Hitler salutes or "Sieg Heil" chants.
PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) marches began in the German city of Dresden last year with several hundred supporters and snowballed to reach 25,000 people on January 12.
But numbers have fallen since the movement's founder stepped down on January 21 after a picture surfaced of him posing as Adolf Hitler. Other senior figures have also since resigned.
Small offshoots of PEGIDA have sprung up in other German cities and marches have taken place in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway, involving however only a few hundred people.
Unlike in Germany, Austria has a strong far-right party in the Freedom Party (FPOe), the third-largest in parliament with around 20-percent support and which has long campaigned against immigration and "Islamisation".
"In Austria the FPOe has always been the real PEGIDA. We have always taken seriously the problems to do with Islamism," the party's leader Heinz-Christian Strache told NEWS magazine in a recent interview.
© 2015 AFP