• Australia
    Reclaim Australia protesters seen holding signs.Twitter
  • Australia
    A sign protesting the Reclaim Australia campaignTwitter

Hundreds of protesters poured out into the streets in Australia on Saturday as part of the 'Reclaim Australia' campaign aimed at opposing Sharia law and Islamist extremism, reminiscent of the Pegida protests in Europe earlier this year. 

Protesters rallied in cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with signs that read - 'Yes Australia. No Sharia', and clashed with counter protesters that tagged the 'Reclaim Australia' campaign as racist. 

A clash between the two sides was also reported near Lindt Cafe, which fell under an Islamist terror attack last December. 

'Reclaim Australia' authorities dismissed allegations of racism. 

"We are pro-Australian values and anti-extreme Islam, but we're not anti-Muslim. Since when is it being racist to love your country and to love the values and culture that you've been brought up with?," Catherine Brennan, spokeswoman for Reclaim Australia told AFP. 

However, while 'Reclaim Australia' organisers said that the protests were not aimed at any particular religion, protesters were heard making anti-Islam comments. 

"We have an extreme ideology called Islam which is starting to gain a foothold in our societies," one speaker in Sydney said, according to AFP, while another held a sign that said - 'No Islam. No Sharia. No Halal'.

Signs with messages such as 'Ban the Burqa' were also seen at the protests.

Counter-protests were identified by signs that read - 'No Room for Racism in Australia' and 'Not Yours to Reclaim'.

The anti-Reclaim Australia protesters said the anti-Islam protests were almost 'neo-Nazi'.

"Basically they are neo-nazis who are able to not look like neo-nazis because the mainstream has become so racist," Tony Iltis, an anti-racism protester, told news.com.au.

"I think the Muslim community needs to know that not all Australians are racist. I think they feel intimidated and how the Jews felt in the 1930s," he said.

Videos of the clash between the protesters were shared on social media. 

Before the march began, in which 20,000 people were said to have joined across the nation, Reclaim Australia's Twitter account was hacked and bizzare posts were sent out, some of which are tagged below: 

"It has been brought to our attention that people claiming to be representing Reclaim Australia Rallies have been making unauthorised statements on various media outlets. In some cases people, unknown to Reclaim Management, have made statements of which do not represent the consensus of Reclaim Australia Rallies at all," the group said through its Facebook page. 

The #ReclaimAustralia hashtag was a top trend in Australia on Saturday, though a majority of the posts slammed the protests for being racist and fueling hatred.