More than 65,000 people have signed an internet petition against the right-wing PEGIDA movement since it was established on Christmas Eve. The signatures are being collected on change.org, with its organizer aiming to reach 1 million.
PEGIDA was formed in October in response to growing sentiment within Germany against immigration and Islam, with its protests particularly focused on the eastern German city of Dresden. The group’s name loosely translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.”
The latest protest in Dresden on Monday drew a record 17,500 people. However, resistance to the movement is growing, with thousands joining counter-demonstrations.
“Now is the time to profess that the phrase ‘We are the people!’, regardless of origin, color, religion or whatever, has been and must continue to hold true,” organizer Karl Lempert said.
The petition follows German President Joachim Gauck’s Christmas speech on Wednesday, in which he urged tolerance and openness in accepting refugees. Gauck did not mention PEGIDA by name but said he believed such sentiments were in the minority.
“The fact that the great majority of us do not follow those who want to seal off Germany has been truly encouraging for me this year,” said Gauck. He added that solutions to wider problems could not be found “with eyes full of fear.”