German police say thousands of people are demonstrating in downtown Dresden in a rally organized by a group calling itself "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," and thousands more are protesting against them.

Demonstrations by the group known as PEGIDA have been growing over the last two months and police estimated 8,800 people were on hand Monday night.

Past protests have drawn praise and support from neo-Nazi groups but speakers sought to distance themselves from that, saying they were protesting against Islamic extremism and perceived abuses to Germany's asylum system, but not against asylum seekers or Muslims in general.

On their Facebook page, they urged supporters to "show that we aren't anti-immigrant and not anti-Islam."

Police say another 7,000 counter-protesters marched against PEGIDA, but both demonstrations were peaceful.