LONDON - British supporters of Germany’s PEGIDA movement, which protests against what it calls the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe, are planning their first demonstration on February 28, police said on Friday.

A Facebook group calling itself PEGIDA UK, which has the slogan ‘United against Extremism’, has called for a march to take place in the northeastern English city of Newcastle. In a statement, local police said: ‘We have spoken to the organisers and they have informed us they plan to hold their event in Newcastle on February 28.

‘We are aware there are also plans in place for counter events to be held in the city on the same day. ‘We will now speak to all of those involved, our partners and our local communities and over the coming days agree on plans for the events.’ PEGIDA is a right-wing populist group that rails against Islam and ‘criminal asylum seekers’, and drew 25,000 people to a march in the German city of Dresden last month.

It has since seen its numbers fall off, although PEGIDA-inspired protests have also taken place in Austria and Sweden in the past week. The small crowds drawn to each one were dwarfed by counter-demonstrations. A homegrown British group that protested against the perceived threat from extremist Islam, the English Defence League, held a number of protests throughout 2013, which often ended in clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators. But the group has lost momentum since its leader Tommy Robinson quit in October that year, saying he could not longer keep ‘extremist elements’ in the group at bay.

Moreover, Sweden’s first rally by the German-inspired ‘anti-Islamisation’ movement PEGIDA in the city of Malmoe was dwarfed by a counter-demonstration about a hundred times larger, according to police estimates.

Television images showed a small group of PEGIDA demonstrators hemmed into a cordoned-off area of the southern city’s central square, surrounded by anti-racism protesters.

‘There are at least 3,000 thousand, most of them counter-demonstrators’ Malmoe police spokesman Lars Foerstell told AFP, adding that there were about 30 PEGIDA protestors. ‘The support is much greater than that,’ PEGIDA’s Swedish leader Henrik Roennquist told public broadcaster SVT putting the number at 150. Malmoe is Sweden’s third city and home to a growing population of Muslims as the country receives the highest proportion of refugees in Europe per head of population.

Counter-demonstrators drowned out attempts by the group to deliver speeches with chants of ‘no racists on our streets’ and police were forced to intervene to extinguish smoke bombs and firecrackers hurled at the PEGIDA side of the square. ‘There is an unmet need for this in Sweden. It’s not about racism, it’s not about shutting out immigrants. It’s about our values and traditions,’ said Roennquist. Police refused to grant PEGIDA a permit to march and only allowed the group to hold a ‘stationary demonstration’ in the city.