Tens of thousands of anti-immigration protesters have gathered at a rally in Germany to mark the one-year anniversary of a group dubbed “Nazis in pinstripes”.
Tommy Robinson, the founder of far-right group the English Defence League (EDL), addressed the crowds in Dresden.
He was there to support the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) - a movement that he called the “salvation of Europe”.
Claiming Europe was at a “crossroads” and likening the refugee crisis to the Crusades, Mr Robinson continued: “Angela Merkel seems to be handing out the birth right of German citizens like she is handing out candy to children…this current immigration is an invasion.
“Our borders are being overrun. There is little or no control. A country that cannot control its borders will soon not be a country.
“We need one banner. Save our culture. Save our country. Save our future. Unite to save a future for our children.”
To huge cheers, Mr Robinson urged Germany to “refuse the shame game” and avoid being “dragged back to chaos and destruction” by welcoming hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.
He later wrote on Twitter that it was an “honour” to speak at the Pegida rally, adding: “I'm not German but it still made my hairs on back of my neck stand up.”
The activist – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – left the EDL in 2013 claiming he was concerned about the “dangers of far-right extremism” but still describes himself proudly as its founder and former leader.
His reappearance follows a jail term earlier this year after he was recalled to prison following a conviction for mortgage fraud in 2014.
Labelling himself on Facebook as an “avid speaker of Truth without Fear or Compromise (sic)”, Mr Robinson has spoken at several rallies including another Pegida protest in Holland earlier this month.
The German government’s decision to take in up to 800,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Syria and the Middle East, breathed new life into the “anti-Islamisation” movement over the summer.
Police declined to estimate the number of protesters who gathered in Dresden on Monday night to celebrate Pegida’s anniversary, but media put it at 15-20,000 and supporters claimed the figure reached 40,000.
Supporters waved the German flags and carried posters bearing slogans such as “Hell comes with fake refugees” and “Money for our children, not for their asylum seekers. #ourcountry”.
Gathering outside Dresden's historic opera house, the Semperoper, Pegida protesters chanted “Deport! Deport!”, “Merkel must go!” and “we are the people!”.
Around 14,000 counter-demonstrators urged people to welcome refugees rather than whip up opposition and fear, marching through the city chanting: “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”
The German Federation of Journalists union was calling on authorities to prosecute those responsible for attacks on three reporters at the Pegida rally.
Participants were heard chanting “lying press, smash their faces!” before a Deutsche Welle reporter, Jaafar Abdul Karim, Ruptly cameraman and a photographer were targeted in separate attacks.
A spokesperson for the Dresden public prosecutor, Lorenz Haase, said a criminal complaint alleging incitement had been received about remarks made by speaker Akif Pirincci suggesting that refugees should be put in concentration camps.
Pegida started its protests in Dresden last year, drawing thousands of supporters in several German cities.
But the backlash was swift and supporters were quickly outnumbered by counter-demonstrators as Angela Merkel condemned the movement and one party dubbed its leaders “Nazis in pinstripes”.
Even as Pegida spread to other European countries, including the UK, the numbers of protesters at weekly demonstrations in Germany dwindled until the refugee crisis intensified.
The group’s future appeared to be threatened when its leader resigned after a photo was published of him posing as Hitler, but Lutz Bachmann returned to tell Monday’s rally that Pegida would not be crushed by political attacks and the “lowest tricks”.
“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…and we will triumph,” he said.
In pictures: Anti-Pegida protesters
In pictures: Anti-Pegida protesters
A police officer talks to a counterprotestor at the sidelines of right-wing movement 'Baergida' (Berlin Patriots against the islamization of the Occident), a Berlin version of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident), protest in Berlin
Participants of right-wing movement 'Baergida' (Berlin Patriots against the islamization of the Occident), a Berlin version of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident), protest in Berlin
People protest against right-wing initiative Pegida with a sign reading 'Stop agitation against Islam' in Berlin
Participants of the 'Alliance against Racism' demonstrate against right-wing initiative Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident) in Berlin. Counterdemonstrations against racism and xenophobia have been planned in Dresden, Berlin, Cologne and Stuttgart. The demonstrations staged by the anti-Islamic Pegida movement produce a series of slogans arguing that Germany is taking in too many foreigners, that the social structures are about to collapse due to the rising number of asylum-seekers, and that there is the threat of an 'Islamisation of the Occident'
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas takes part in a protest against the march of a grass-roots anti-Muslim movement in Berlin. The rise of the group, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida), has shaken Germany's political establishment
The lighting of the Brqandenburg Gate was switched off to make a statement against racism as People protest against right-wing initiative Pegida in Berlin
A left wing activist struggles with the riot police during a protest against a planed march of the Pegida movement in their first Berlin demonstration, which they have dubbed 'Baergida'
People protest against right-wing initiative Pegida in Hamburg
People protest against right-wing initiative Pegida in Munich
People protest against right-wing initiative Pegida in Stuttgart
Ahead of the rally, Thomas de Maiziere, the Interior Minister, called Pegida’s organisers “hard right-wing extremists” who spread hate, and said everyone who attended their demonstrations “should know that they are running after the Pied Piper”.
As many German municipalities struggle to house and support the wave of migrants, criticism of Ms Merkel's policy has grown, her ratings have slipped, and there has been a wave of arson attacks on refugee centres.
A politician responsible for housing asylum seekers’ housing and integration in Cologne was stabbed in the neck on Saturday by a man reportedly shouting about refugees.
Henriette Reker, 58, is in a serious but stable condition after emergency surgery and was elected as the city’s mayor in elections the following day.Reuse content