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More than 15,000 rally in Dresden, supporting Pegida. There was also a anti-PEGIDA demonstration, which attracted 15,000-19,000 people.
At least 15,000 people have marched through Dresden to mark the "anniversary" of the first PEGIDA demonstration. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has condemned the movement as "hard right-wing extremists."
Thousands of PEGIDA demonstrators descended upon the eastern German city of Dresden on Monday evening, to mark a year since their first march through the city.
In a tweet shortly before the demonstration on Monday, Saxony state police said "everything was very emotionally-charged" and asked protesters to "stay calm, so the evening remains violence-free."
At least one person has been seriously hurt after thousands of people massed in the eastern German city of Dresden to mark the first anniversary of the anti-migrant movement Pegida. Thousands more came out in counter-protest.
Dresden police said in a tweet that a Pegida supporter had been attacked by unidentified assailants, leaving him seriously injured.
“WE WILL TRIUMPH”
Carrying placards bearing images of burqa-clad women crossed out, or slogans referring to the German chancellor such as: “Go [Angela] Merkel: you give the Judas kiss”, Pegida supporters gathered in downtown Dresden on Monday, the birthplace of the movement.
“We worked for 45 years and are having our legs pulled with a small pension and now - with these refugees - they're getting it handed to them on a silver platter," said one Dresdner, well into her 70s.
Her two girlfriends, each carrying a small German flag, nodded their curly grey heads and gazed into the crowd they've joined every Monday for the past year.
Welcoming the crowds on Monday evening, PEGIDA co-founder Lutz Bachmann said he "had goosebumps.""We came in order to stay and we will triumph!" he said.
Tom Robinson, PEGIDA founder, started his speech arguing: “your current chancellor, Angela Merkel, seems to be handing out the birth right of German citizens like she is handing out candy to children."
Robinson said the migrant crisis was being compared to the Second World War, and that like then, people are being encouraged to respond with "generosity". However, he stated, there was a difference and problems "we are not permitted to speak about, we are ignored”
They were, he explained: "The two evils: terrorism and ideology."
"We are offered silence, free speech is all but dead in Europe. We live in a post free speech era, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo have proven that to the whole world," Robinson added.
The anti-PEGIDA demonstration on Monday attracted 15,000-19,000 people, who marched through Dresden's city center on four different routes.
"That's enough! Heart instead of hate!" the crowds were heard chanting. Bringing a little humor to the evening was one anti-PEGIDA placard which read: "Falafel instead of sausage."
Hans, 75, told AFP he made it a point to be present. He said: “Pegida is celebrating its birthday and we think that it is very important for the majority of the population to not join Pegida, and to show that they don’t agree with the movement.”
“HARD RIGHT-WING EXTREMISTS”
Speaking in an interview with German public broadcaster ARD on Monday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere condemned the PEGIDA movement as "hard right-wing extremists" and urged people not to attend the marches.
"Stay away from those people who are injecting this hatred, this poison into our country," de Maiziere said.
Before the Pegida march, Merkel reiterated a call for citizens to shun “those with hate in their hearts”. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “The chancellor has already reacted to such demonstrations in her 2015 New Year’s speech, and I would repeat it here as it is unfortunately still valid: ‘Don’t follow those who have hate in their hearts.’”
PEGIDA, whose name loosely translates as the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, held its first demonstration in Dresden on October 20, 2014.
At its peak in January, the right-wing movement attracted a record 25,000 protesters, but numbers dropped dramatically to around 2,000 after a series of scuffles within the movement. Amid growing concern over the German government's handling of the refugee crisis, however, attendance has grown steadily in recent weeks.