The German far-right, anti-immigration group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, known by the acronym Pegida, is planning a mass rally Monday in Dresden to mark its one-year anniversary, AFP reported. Government officials have spoken out against the group and its xenophobic rhetoric ahead of the rally.
"They make blanket references to asylum seekers as criminals, and all politicians as being guilty of high treason," said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, according to Deutsche Welle. "Stay away from those who are injecting this hatred, this poison, into our country. Anyone who goes that way should know that they are following rabble rousers."
The rally comes after a mayoral candidate in Cologne was stabbed in the neck while campaigning Saturday. Henriette Reker won the mayoral election Sunday but remained in the hospital Monday following the attack by a man who said he was angry over Germany’s immigration policy. Reker has been working to help refugees in Cologne.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country expects to take in more than 800,000 refugees fleeing conflict and persecution from states including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea. Some estimates have Germany taking in more than 1.5 million refugees this year as local officials struggle to find housing for them and temperatures drop.
Merkel’s welcoming policy toward refugees has played into Pegida’s revival after the group’s leader, Lutz Bachmann, resigned in January following a scandal over a photo showing him with a Hitler-style mustache. Pegida has called for stricter border controls and called Merkel "the most dangerous woman in Europe.”
The group's supporters held rallies last week where they carried small gallows with the names of German politicians on them, including Merkel. Approximately 9,000 people attended a rally in Dresden last Monday.
Merkel has urged Germans to “stay away from those with hate in their hearts,” the Local reported. While still above 50 percent, Merkel’s approval rating in Germany has dropped as the country and the entire European Union struggles to deal with the largest inflow of refugees since the Second World War.