Thousands of people took to the streets of Dresden on Monday evening (19 October) for a rally marking the one-year anniversary of anti-Islam group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West). Demonstrators gathered in front of the city's cathedral waving German flags and banners criticising the German government's policy on refugees.
Pegida's leader Lutz Bachmann told the crowd: "Politicians attack and defame us and the lowest tricks are used to keep our mouths shut. We are threatened with death, there are attacks on our vehicles and houses and we are dragged through the mud, but we are still here."
"Because we came to stay and we are staying to triumph. And we will triumph," he added as the crowd cheered and chanted "We are the people", a slogan first made famous by protesters calling for the fall of the Berlin wall.
One protester from an organisation that wants to bring Pegida to western Germany said that the movement was not about hatred of immigrants.
"Pegida is not xenophobic, we are simply drawing attention to the many problems Germany is now facing," Ester Seitz from Resistance East-West said.
Police did not give any numbers on Monday but had previously said they expected around 10,000 people to attend the protest. Meanwhile, nine counter-protests were announced, and hundreds of counter-demonstrators turned out bearing placards with slogans like "Refugees Welcome" and "Stop Racism".
Germany's domestic intelligence agency is closely monitoring anti-Islam movements like Pegida following a march last week in which demonstrators held up a mock gallows with nooses marked for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy Sigmar Gabriel, a spokesman for the interior ministry said on Monday.
The rallies of Pegida and its local affiliates initially peaked in November and December 2014, spreading rapidly across Germany before losing impetus during the following months. But in recent weeks the group has once again attracted several thousand protesters to its Monday evening marches, with tension high as immigration tops the political agenda. Germany, a favoured destination for migrants, expects 800,000 to a million new arrivals this year.