Sweden: Anti-Islam demonstration proves unpopular

Police in Sweden have said that an anti-Islam rally in the central city of Uppsala proved unsuccessful for organisers after counter-protesters outnumbered them considerably.

Authorities revealed that the Pegida demonstration drew only a handful of supporters, while between 250 and 300 anti-Pegida protesters turned up at the city’s Forum Square to counter the anti-Islam group’s rally.

Two of the speakers at the gathering were gallery owner Henrik Ronnquist – who founded the Scandinavian country’s branch of Pegida – and artist Dan Park. Both have convictions of inciting racial hatred on their records from previous incidences.

However, police spokesperson Jonas-Eronen said no arrest were made in what he described as a “quiet afternoon”.

Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident, began staging demonstrations in Dresden, Germany, last year. Initially the group had just a few hundred supporters but according to figures published at the beginning of the year, the numbers had increased to 25,000.

However, since then the number of followers has declined again after the group’s founder, Lutz Bachmann, quit his role on 21 January following the publication of a picture of him posing as Hitler. This led to a number of other key figures have also stepped down.

There are offshoots of Pegida in other German cities, while rallies have also been held in Norway, Denmark and Austria. However, supporters of such demonstrations have continually been outnumbered by counter-protesters.

At a Pegida rally in the Swedish city of Linkoping in March, just four people turned up in support of the group.