The first pan-European meeting of anti-Islamic groups in Aarhus today faced multiple disruptions by counter-protesters and resulted in 82 arrests.
The Aarhus Counter-Jihad Meeting was organised by the British anti-Islamic organisation English Defence League and featured talks by representatives of organisations such as Stop Islamisation of Europe.
Less than a hundred individuals were present for the rally in Mølleparken in the early afternoon, though those who did attend were prepared to make a point. One individual, who said his name was simply 'Peter', was dressed in Arabic attire and held a sign stating, 'No to Islamism'.
”I'm protesting about the ongoing Islamisation in Denmark,” he told gathered journalists. ”Someday we might all have to dress like this.”
The announcement of the rally earlier this year provoked a massive response and led to the organisation of a pro-diversity demonstration entitled Aarhus for Mangfoldighed.
Police estimate that throughout the afternoon over 5,000 people attended this rally that snaked along a two-kilometre route through the heart of the city.
Solveig Munk, who helped arrange the march, explained to The Copenhagen Post that it was important to make a stand and expose the anti-Islamic groups' "racist message".
”Last time it was Jews, now it's Muslims. I'm a child of the war and I saw what happens when people don't stand up to people with messages like these. Hate should not be allowed to grow.”
There was speculation before the march that there would be clashes between members of the rival marches, though police attempted to play down the potential for disruption.
But the numbers of police on the street told another story, and as the afternoon wore on a growing number of pro-diversity demonstrators moved in the direction of the Counter-Jihad Meeting.
Conflict started in earnest once leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson, took to the stage in Mølleparken to speak before a crowd that included a large number of foreign reporters.
Robinson, speaking to the press before taking to the stage, explained that the EDL was not a racist organisation, but was opposed to Islam and the threats it posed to Western and European society.
”This is the start, this is going to give birth to a Europe-wide network. This is the start of the end for Islamism," Robinson said.
”Islamism is not a British problem or a Danish problem, it's a European and worldwide problem. All of our political leaders are silent, the fear has paralysed them,” he said, referring to the global uproar from Muslims after the 2005 publication of the Mohammed cartoons by Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
”They are scared. They have been bought by a bottomless pit of Saudi oil money. But we are not and we are standing up. Christianity is under attack across Europe. It's being marginalised. We're the ones standing up for freedom and democracy.”
Robinson's speech to the crowd was interrupted after only a few minutes by chanting counter-demonstrators. Danes with minority backgrounds and black-clad protestors from anti-fascist groups heckled the EDL leader and objects were thrown toward the stage as police tried to secure the park.
But a gap in the police lines left an opening for several dozen members of the pro-diversity group to enter the park and confront members of the anti-Islamic rally. Fights briefly broke out before undercover police intervened, drawing batons to separate the two sides.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon protestors played cat and mouse with the police as they attempted to interrupt the rally. Police made arrests throughout the day including one mass arrest of approximately 50 demonstrators for not following police orders to disperse.
Participants in the anti-Islam meeting were bussed out of the city under heavy police protection though an object thrown by a protester broke a window in one of the busses.
The meeting is unlikely to be the last gathering of European anti-Islamists, according to Robinson, who stated that cities such as Malmö, Paris and Brussels will be the setting of future meetings.
A full story of the protests in Aarhus today will be published in The Copenhagen Post on Wednesday.