HUNDREDS of supporters of German far-right group Pegida turned out in the North-East for their first UK demonstration to be met by a counter protest thousands strong.

Newcastle streets thronged with people as rival rallies took place in the city centre on Saturday (February 28).

The 400 or so Pegida or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West - supporters gathered at the Bigg Market for what was billed a peaceful protest against "extreme Islam".

A heavy police presence separated them from more than 2,000 people who gathered at Newgate under the banner of Newcastle Unites.

However, those values differed greatly on each side of the police cordon where one group rallied determinedly against extremist Islam and the other stood firmly in support of diversity and tolerance.

Speakers for Pegida included politician Paul Weston, chair of the Liberty GB group, who warned the crowd against the influence of Islam.

He said: "We're here today because nobody else is talking about the problems in this country.

"Islam is not a religion of peace, it's an ideology and a political organisation which provokes violence, warfare and submission before Allah."

Mr Weston went on to compare the Prophet Mohammed to Jihadi John, the ISIS terrorist unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi, who is believed responsible for the beheading of several Western hostages.

Sporadic violence broke out as Pegida supporters attempted to get past police in a bid to reach the opposing rally.

Activists, including controversial MP George Galloway, rallied against the group's ideology in podium speeches but it was the people on the streets whose voices were loudest.

Ten-year-old Tamim Sultan said he wanted to stop the "racist" group before they corrupted the world while 26-year-old Laura Peart said: "I am indignant at this intolerance and it's more upsetting that this is happening in my home town - we need to stand up, wherever we are."

Organiser and councillor Dipu Ahad said he had been threatened with beheading in the days leading up to the protest.

He said: "I'm not going to stop fighting for what's right and I'm not going to be intimidated, I've fought all my life against racism and will not stop today."