On Saturday approximately 375 people marched in the name of the German far-right anti-Islam group Pegida in Newscastle’s city centre.
Paul Weston, leader of the similarly far-right Liberty GB party, told supporters at the rally of the risk to Britain of a Muslim “take over” and Muslims becoming a majority population in the UK in the future.
In Germany Pegida (Patriotische Europaer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) hold weekly marches against what they label the “Islamisation” of the West, with one of their rallies in January attracting a significant 25,000 supporters.
In Newcastle, however, support for the far-right group was much weaker. A counter-protest, supporting multiculturalism and tolerance of different groups in society, united under the banner Newcastle Unites attracted far more supporters.
Around 2,000 people joined the counter-demo, among who was MP George Galloway, who labelled Pegida as a group of “right-wing nutters”. Mr Galloway said: "All right-thinking people in Britain condemn the idea of a German Nazi group coming to the North East of England trying to stir up trouble.” He added, "The vast majority of British people respect that and the people who are on here on the counter-demonstration are representing millions.
Russell Brand also expressed his support of the counter-demo and total opposition to racism and fascism.
Prior to the protest the Newcastle United Football Club supporters group signalled that they disapproved of Pegida trying to bring its ideology to the streets of Newcastle, a city which they said is “famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit.”
The demonstrations were largely peaceful although five people were arrested.