Dresden (Germany) - Some 8,000 people took part in an anti-Islam rally in eastern Germany where the main speakers was Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders.
The Neo Nazi group , known by its German acronym PEGIDA, had predicted a crowd of 30,000 would show up for the weekly event in Dresden.
PEGIDA's recent protests have all fallen far short the 25,000 people the group mobilized in January, prompting concern at the time that anti-foreigner sentiment might be gaining mainstream appeal again in Germany.
Speaking in German, Geert Wilders praised PEGIDA supporters, calling them "heroes," because they defended Western culture. Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, who is openly against Islam, said the religion did not belong to Germany.
A court had banned the counter-protest from getting within sight or earshot of PEGIDA, citing the group's right to freedom of speech, however, prohibited anti-PEGIDA protesters from demonstrating within view or earshot of Wilders' venue. Earlier on Monday, activists of the anti-Nazi union Dresden Nazifrei had requested permission to hold a rally in the city. Judges argued the Dresden Nazifrei rally was intended to hinder PEGIDA protesters.
Most Pegida followers insist they are not Nazis but patriots who worry about the “watering down” of their Christian-rooted culture and traditions. They often accuse mainstream political parties of betraying them and the media of lying.
Pegida, born in Dresden that was part of communist East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, has spawned copycat groups in western areas which have failed so far to attract similar crowds.