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Demonstrations have begun in the streets of Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. Far-right groups from across Europe arrived to Denmark to hold a rally called ‘Danish Defence League’, expressing their message to ‘halt the Islamification of Europe.’
A counter-rally is being held simultaneously, protesting right-wing extremism. Demonstrators against racism from around Denmark have gathered under the banner ‘Black and White: Unite and fight.’ One of the counter-rally participants is Anna Rose Wiirumfelt, student, who told the Danish newspaper Politiken; “It is important to show resistance towards the other demonstration and show that there is a counter pole to their opinions.” She told Politiken that she believes people should be able to communicate across color and faith.
The anti-Islamic demonstration is led by the English Defence League (EDL) who hope to ignite a Europe-wide movement. They have been joined by many far-right leaders which is somewhat of a concern among analysts, according to the BBC.
EDL leader Stephen Lennon commented to the BBC “we’re not expecting big numbers in Aarhus,” referring to the attendance of a few hundred people. “We hope it will be the start of a European movement that will continue to grow.”
In Aarhus today, locals are predominantly unhappy about the situation. Many shops have decided to close for the day and some ethnic shop owners have expressed to the national news service that they are uncomfortable with the tension that the EDL creates.
Meanwhile, participants of the counter demonstration have said to Politiken that their mission is not to attack the anti-Islam rally, but to show that there is a counter movement against the prejudice and criticism of Islam and ethnic minorities.
“Though freedom of speech is important, so is equality between people. You should be allowed to be different,” said Thomas Tesfaye Berhane, student, to Politiken.
The local Danish police force has been dispatched to make sure the tho rallies are conducted without incident. The greatest fear is that the demonstrations meet and clash, considering that the counter rally include children and elderly citizens.
“Our efforts will be based on dialogue. But of course, we have a sufficient number of personnel ready,” said Mogens Brøndum, spokesperson of the local police department. “We will do all we can to make sure this goes down calm and orderly.”
There are some who shun both demonstrations. “I am against giving the anti-Islamic movement this much publicity. I don’t understand why they have come to Denmark but they have the right to demonstrate. Though I’m curious, I’m not gonna go down there because it sort of validates their argument. I wish they just came, did their rally and went home. The more attention they get, the more they gain from their demonstration,” said Kathrine Dollerup Bjerregaard, a local resident, to Toonari Post.
Image courtesy of kraen