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Thousands flock to Dresden to challenge far right

Thousands of anti-fascists demonstrated in central Dresden on Monday night against a rally organised by a group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida).

Police estimated 10,000 people had attended the rally by the Pegida group and the counter-demonstration had numbered about 9,000.

Both rallies were described by police as “peaceful.”

Monday night demonstrations by Pegida in Dresden have grown over the past two months from about 200 people.

Anti-fascist activists warn that this has been due to increasing support and involvement by neonazi groups.

Prominent Left Party politician Kerstin Koeditz has already sounded the alarm that notorious nazis, hooligans and other violent elements are infiltrating the Pegida demonstrations.

Speakers at the Pegida rally, however, sought to distance themselves from such elements, claiming they were protesting against Islamic extremism and perceived abuses of Germany’s asylum system but not against asylum-seekers or Muslims in general.

Pegida publicly represents itself as a group of “normal citizens” worried about Islamic fundamentalism and disowns any links to the far right.

But “it’s a conglomeration of carriers of racist ideologies and concerned citizens, who are being radicalised in the process,” warned Ms Koeditz, the Left Party speaker on anti-fascist politics in Saxony’s state parliament.

Related demonstrations elsewhere attracted far fewer people, with about 600 protesters showing up at a rally in Berlin and about 450 in Duesseldorf, police said.

Both of those demonstrations were outnumbered by anti-fascists who showed up to counter the outpouring of xenophobia.

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