European anti-Islamic rally in Denmark flops
Gathering attracts less than 200 supporters as thousands of counter demonstrators clash with attendees and police.
An anti-Islamic gathering in Denmark’s second city has attracted fewer than 200 supporters compared with thousands of counter demonstrators of whom 83 were arrested.
The far-right activists later had to be escorted away from the rally on two buses by police on Saturday.
The rally was held in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, 200km northwest of Copenhagen, the capital, drawing participants from several European countries, including Britain, Germany, Poland and Sweden.
The “European Counter-Jihad Meeting” started with a moment of silence for the seven people who were killed by an al-Qaeda-inspired gunman in France.
“There are 150 or 200 people, but I have the impression that there are not even 100 people really taking part in the demonstration,” a police officer at the far right rally in eastern Aarhus told AFP news agency.
Police were forced to intervene after some of the counter protesters shouted slogans in Arabic and tried to attack the far-right demonstrators.
Two police officers were wounded, one by a projectile, possibly a bottle, while the other suffered an eye injury as a result of a tear gas canister or a firecracker, local police chief Mogens Broendum said.
The demonstration was organised by the Danish Defence League which earlier said it hoped up to 1,000 people would take part. A spokesman for the league was not available for comment.
Police said between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended the counter demonstration, under the banner “Aarhus For Diversity”.
Last week, several thousand people turned out for an open-air concert in Aarhus organised to protest against the far-right rally.
A statement issued by city officials said the concert was organised because “Aarhus does not want to be associated with extremist groups” that represent “everything we want to distance ourselves from”.
‘No Breivik ties’
The far-right rally took place a few weeks before the start of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right extremist who murdered 77 people in Norway last July.
Breivik claimed to have had contact with the English Defence League (EDL) ahead of the attacks, adding that he had “spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders”.
In response to the killings, the league condemned the killings and added that it had no contact with Breivik.
In a statement on its website, the EDL said it would not associate with any individual or group who did not reject “extremism” and said “racists, neo-Nazis and any other extremists” were not welcome.
It said it had called on participating groups to sign a memorandum declaring that they were “anti-extremist, anti-fascist, and anti-racist”.
“We will protest peacefully, but we will defend ourselves if need be. We will be loud, and we will not back down,” the memorandum states.
EDL leader Stephen Lennon said: “We hope it [the rally] will be the start of a European movement that will continue to grow.”
Various far-right groups have been in Aarhus since Wednesday where they have had a chance to hold meetings and discuss ideas.