The Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident group has organized ten such demonstrations, and this was the largest so far.
The far right organization’s leader Lutz Bachmann has built a considerable following since October when he started with a protest against building refugee centers in Dresden.
On Monday, he shouted to a cheering crowd: “This is not a land of immigration.”
Demonstrations of this kind have spread throughout the country this year, to the point that anti-extremist activists at the Berlin Against Nazis organization have created an smartphone app to track them, the so-called “Anti-Nazi app.”
“The people who participate in these demonstrations do not consider themselves extremists, but rather ordinary middle class citizens,” German psychologist Oliver Decker of the University of Leipzig said in an interview on Monday with the German business newspaper Wirtschaftswoche. “They see Islam as a danger and a target, as there is considerable fear of the country’s immigration policies.”
Decker is one of the authors of a study by his university, released in June, that actually shows far right extremist attitudes have declined across the country.
“However, the downside is that certain groups of immigrants and migrants are more clearly discriminated against,” said Decker.
One of these groups is Islamic immigrants.
“In recent years, Islamophobia as a modern form of xenophobia has become increasingly important as a field of action for the right-wing extremist scene," the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution said in a statement on its website. "Right-wing extremists try to arouse the population's fear of foreign domination."
Bachmann himself is a 41-year-old former advertising salesman. He told the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung that he is not against Islam itself, but rather the “Islamization” of his country. Nonetheless, there has been a 20.4 percent increase in attacks on foreigners in 2014, according to the German Interior Ministry’s announcement on June 4.
There have been a number of counter-demonstrations spurred by anti-racism organizations like the one in Berlin.
About 4,500 people marched through Dresden on Monday, carrying banners reading: "Nazi-free."
Similar demonstrations against the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident group took place in Munich, with at least 12,000 people participating.
In Bonn, several hundreds of counter-demonstrators faced off with rallying members of anti-immigration group Bonn Against Islamism, prompting police intervention.
Underlying this rise of the far right, is a basic need, says political scientist Albrecht von Lucke.
“These people feel that no one pays attention to them, that they are not heard,” he said.