A rally in Hanover called by self-proclaimed hooligans against radical Islamism has drawn a smaller crowd than expected and ended peacefully.
Less than 3,000 people gathered outside the city’s main station, out of an expected turnout of 5,000.
A counter-demonstration from several left-wing groups was held a stone’s throw away and both demos passed off without incident.
Police had put tight controls in place after a similar rally in Cologne last month which ended in violence. It marked a rise in far-right extremism in Germany.
In Hanover cameras caught an animated exchange between residents and demonstrators.
“I`m against these radicals who behead people…But I won`t go with theses neo-Nazis..” said one woman, to which a man responded, “We`re not neo-Nazis..but it`s better to be with neo-Nazis than with Salafists”.
His companion added, “No, better to be with the patriots.“Yes, patriot this is the right word,” replied the first man.
Known as Hooligans against Salafists (HoGeSa), and largely organised via online social networks they have grown out of groups of football supporters and say they fear a rise in radical Islamism in Europe. Salafists are the dominant majority Muslim group in Saudi Arabia and follow sharia law.
In October, German domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen announced that the number of Islamic extremists is growing in the country. He said his agency counted around 6,300 Salafists in the country and estimated that around 450 Salafists had travelled to Syria and Iraq to join extremists groups fighting there.