Police detain NRM protesters in Gothenburg
Members of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) violently clashed with police during a demonstration in Gothenburg on 30th September 2017. The NRM-organised march coincided with the most important Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur, when large numbers of Jews typically visit the central parts of the city and the synagogue. The march also took place on the opening day of Sweden´s largest annual book fair, a huge cultural event with over 70,000 visitors. The Administrative Court in Gothenburg changed the permitted route of the march following an appeal by a legal representative of the Jewish community. The court's judgment significantly shortened the marchers' route and deliberately kept it away from the book fair and Gothenburg synagogue. However, the court did not change the date of the demonstration.
On the day prior to NRM march in Gothenburg, Civil Rights Defenders published a statement demanding that police take responsibility for any harmful or hate-inducing speech or actions during the march. On the day itself, several hundred NRM supporters began the march along the route for which authorities had issued permission. Several protesters, however, tried to break out of the designated area. NRM protesters clashed violently with police during the demonstration, shouting slogans such as “race traitor” and “Nordic revolution, no pardon”. Demonstrators also attacked a group of journalists, forcing them towards a line of empty police buses, according to a report by newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
Several people, including foreign citizens, were detained prior to the demonstration by police in Gothenburg and other parts of Sweden on suspicion of intending to carry out assault.
After the violence, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that Sweden should review current legislation to better counter Nazi activities. These activities have increased in recent years, both in terms of opinion formation and flyers and posters, but also demonstrations and violent activities. The government and opposition parties have agreed to review relevant laws in order to obstruct Nazi activities. Sweden, through the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, has an obligation to prevent the spread of racist propaganda and ban manifestations with a racist purpose. At the same time, it is clear that the rule of the law today is too narrow and does not allow for the prevention of demonstrations when violence-violent extremist groups spread racism and hatred.
Following the disturbances, several leading members of the neo-Nazi group were arrested and charged. Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders, declared:
"Sweden has an obligation to effectively combat hate crime and racism, including by not allowing activities that spread racist propaganda. Therefore, it is important to put foot down and cope with this type of criminal activity the organization is conducting."
In a separate incident from 6th to 30th August 2017, a sit-in took place in central Stockholm, first at a square close to Parliament, and then at another centrally- located square in Stockholm. Hundreds of young people who arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied child refugees in the last few years peacefully protested against the Swedish government's deportations, primarily to Afghanistan. The sit-in was initiated by a 17-year old girl, Fatemeh Khavari, and self-organised by young people of Afghan descent. Neo-Nazi extremists disrupted the protest on one occasion. In addition, members of a racist Facebook page started an aggressive campaign against the peaceful demonstrators, drawing more people to join the demonstrators to counter the racism and harmful speech.