ZURICH (Reuters) - Police in Basel have banned the first anti-Islam demonstration by the German-based PEGIDA movement in Switzerland and a counter-rally by left-wing groups, they said on Friday, citing security concerns.
“The cantonal police of the city of Basel have decided to withdraw authorisations granted to the two demonstrations planned on Feb. 3 on the market square,” a statement said.
It said the “expected participation of several groups prone to violence on both sides, from Switzerland and from abroad, led to this decision”.
The Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) movement originated in Germany, where thousands rally regularly in the eastern city of Dresden, raising fears about right-wing radicalisation.
Riot police broke up a PEGIDA-organised march by far-right protesters in the German city of Cologne earlier this month as they demonstrated against Germany’s migration policy after asylum seekers were identified as suspects in assaults on women on New Year’s Eve.
Police said around 1,700 people attended that rally. PEGIDA has seized on the alleged involvement of migrants in the Cologne attacks as proof that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy is flawed. Germany took in 1.1 million migrants and refugees in 2015.
In Switzerland, the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP) won nearly 30 percent of the vote, the biggest share, in October’s parliamentary election. That followed a referendum in which Swiss backed restrictions on foreigners living in the country.
However, the Swiss branch of PEGIDA has so far gained little public attention.
Basel’s Young Socialists and the Young Ecologists of northwestern Switzerland had called for the counter-rally.
Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Janet Lawrence