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16 Oct, 2016 18:11

Massive PEGIDA rally in Dresden marks 2 years of anti-immigrant movement (VIDEO)

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Dresden to mark the second anniversary of the far-right anti-Islam German movement PEGIDA. Dresden is PEGIDA's birthplace.

Supporters gathered at Theaterplatz Square in central Dresden to protest against the refugee policy of Angela Merkel, as well as what they see as forced multiculturalism and the continued Islamization of Europe.

“You have a million foreigners every year. They don’t speak the German language, they do not accept our culture, they have very basic or no education or no professional skills,” one demonstrator told RT. “We have no use for them. We have our own German problems.”

“We have more rapes, we have more criminality, we have more violence that we didn’t have before,” another added.

There was a heavy police presence at the scene, including armored carriers and two water cannons, as encounters between PEGIDA supporters, counter-protesters and the authorities have turned violent in the past. But the rally on Sunday was entirely trouble-free and no arrests were made.

According to German public broadcaster MDR, there were at least 5,000 people at the rally, although German statistical research group Durchgezahlt put the number as high as 6,500-8,500. Originally the demonstration was due to take place on Monday, but was moved after the city organized a street festival on that day instead.

A smaller, counter-demonstration of 130 was led by students, but police kept the two groups at a distance to maintain public order. Some counterdemonstrators claimed they were kept away from certain parts of the city due to an ‘Islamist threat’, but this was denied by the police.

Some have expressed frustration that the PEGIDA demonstration was not met by sufficient opposition.

“For PEGIDA's birthday, the Dresden authorities are rolling out the red carpet once again and making sure counterdemonstrations are nowhere to be seen or heard,” left-wing MP Andre Schollbach told Deutsche Welle.

READ MORE: ‘Merkel must go!’ Hundreds protest in Dresden on German Unity Day (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Pegida (which stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West’) has been exploiting the anti-immigrant agenda since its emergence in Dresden in late 2014. The movement has gained popularity in Germany and overseas, holding rallies against ‘Islamization’, refugees and Angela Merkel’s open-door migrant policy. At its peak, Pegida meetings attracted some 25,000 supporters.

Anti-migrant sentiment in Germany is on the rise, with the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gaining strong support at the expense of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).