A new grass-roots movement that assails the German government for ignoring its fears of being overrun by Muslims and other immigrants attracted a record 15,000 marchers on Monday in the eastern city of Dresden.
The fast-growing movement that calls itself PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, has drawn support from
the far-right as well as some ordinary Germans alarmed by a sharp rise in refugees, many fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
The rallies have spread rapidly across Germany since starting with a local social media appeal in Dresden two months ago. They are now beginning to unsettle the German political establishment, which has spent decades restoring Germany's image as an open, tolerant country after the devastation of the Nazis.
"The politicians in Germany have lost touch with the people and that's why they can't comprehend what's happening here," Lutz Bachmann, the 41-year-old gravel-voiced leader of the movement, told marchers from a makeshift stage.
In recent weeks, media reports have exposed Bachmann's own criminal record for among other things burglary, drunk driving and drug dealing.
At the rally on Monday he lashed out at the media for what he said were lies about the movement, eliciting chants of "Luegenpresse! Luegenpresse!" (media lies!) from a fired-up group of demonstrators, mostly white men over 40 wearing shabby clothing.