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19 February 2015, 17:18
The controversial anti-Islam group Pegida has urged extreme right-wing groups planning to join its first British demonstration, in Newcastle, to keep protests peaceful.
It has admitted the 11am start on Saturday February 28 was a ``pain'' for supporters travelling from elsewhere, but accepted police and the local council had ``a lot to contend with'' as there was a Premier League fixture in the city that afternoon.
There will also be a counter-demo which left-wing comedian Russell Brand and Respect MP George Galloway were understood to be joining.
Pegida UK is an offshoot of the group which started in Germany and whose name translates as Patriots of Europe against the Islamisation of the West.
On Facebook, it said it was aware extreme right-wing groups were planning to join them in Newcastle, and insisted the rally in the Bigg Market must remain non-violent.
``Pegida is an organisation that believes in freedom of expression and speech. We welcome everybody. No matter of political nor religious background..."
``All we ask is that people acknowledge our agenda of peaceful protest and unite under the Pegida flag for the day..... In a perfect world we would love the extreme right-wing element to leave us to it... but this isn't an ideal world... as long as everyone behaves themselves, this should go without incident."
``The subject about Islam's influence of our culture is a very sensitive issue... and it is a topic that lays heavy on our hearts... it is true this stirs emotions and sometimes anger... but we are not angry at the Muslim community, but the Governments that have allowed such acts to take place."
``Pegida asks that all aggression and ill conduct to be ruled out completely. This is a public and political awareness campaign... The only awareness a violent attitude will bring, is the awareness that we are out of control thugs that have no agenda except cause destruction.''
In a separate message addressed ``Dear loyal and proud patriots'' the group said it was too late to alter the February 28 date.
That afternoon a crowd of around 50,000 was expected to watch Newcastle United play Aston Villa at St James's Park.
Pegida said Northumbria Police and Newcastle City Council ``have a lot to contend with on the 28th, our hands are tied''.
The statement continued:
``It is a pain for us all we can appreciate this. Newcastle will be the first of many demonstrations held. The next will be planned better with city events and logistics sorted out prior.''