Sympathizers of a Europe-based anti-Islam, anti-immigration group called PEGIDA have set up a local chapter in Quebec and are planning on demonstrating in Montreal on Saturday.

The self-described leader of the PEGIDA Québec chapter, Jean-François Asgard, told Radio-Canada his beliefs are closely aligned to those espoused by the National Front, a British political party exclusive to white people that advocates for repatriation of all non-white people to their countries of origin.

“Islam needs to reform itself or leave the West,” Asgard said.

Anti-racist protesters, meanwhile, are also planning a counter-demonstration for the same place and time.

Jaggi Singh of the No One Is Illegal activist group said the intention of the counter-protest is to surround the PEGIDA marchers and prevent them from walking into Little Maghreb, a largely Muslim community in the Montreal neighbourhood of St-Michel.

“Neo-Nazis, Islamophobes, internet trolls — they all sort of congregate around this thing called PEGIDA,” Singh said.

What is PEGIDA?

The organization is popular with neo-Nazis and other nationalists and is often spoken about favourably on white supremacist online forums such as Stormfront and National Front.

Jaggi SinghWell-known Montreal activist Jaggi Singh, seen here holding a megaphone in this file photo, is a main organizer of Saturday’s anti-PEGIDA demonstration. (CBC)

PEGIDA, which in German stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, first popped up in October 2014. The relatively new group began in Dresden, Germany and uses Facebook as a main organizing tool.

PEGIDA Québec first began posting on Facebook in January, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack. Saturday afternoon’s demonstration is referred to online as the local chapter’s first action.

PEGIDA Québec leader Asgard told Radio-Canada that the itinerary planned for Saturday — which they submitted ahead of time to Montreal police — intentionally passes in front of several Muslim community centres and mosques.

Singh said it’s very worrisome that people who normally only espouse racist and xenophobic opinions online are moving into the physical world.

“Now we know there’s racists out there, we know there’s Islamophobes out there, we know there’s fascists out there, but what’s different today is that they’re trying to march publicly in a working class, immigrant area that is predominantly North African,” he said.

Antifa supporters counter-protest

Just over 100 people have RSVP’d to PEGIDA Québec’s march, while nearly 900 members of Antifa (anti-fascism) and other anti-racist groups are expected to attend the counter-demonstration.

Singh said he doesn’t expect the protest to become violent.

“There’s no way that their demonstration will be able to go where they want to go. They won’t be able to pass. The police have given them permission to march, but that doesn’t mean people in the neighbourhood or anti-racist groups are giving them permission to march,” he said.

Montreal police confirmed officers will be on the scene to keep an eye on any potential violence.

With files from Radio-Canada