Protests build against neo-Nazi demo

Police have stopped a group of militant activist on their way to Salem, south of Stockholm to disrupt a neo-Nazi demo scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Elsewhere protests grow against the annual demonstration.

Six leading county councillors have argued in a cross-party debate article in Saturday’s Dagens Nyheter that the police and the courts are wrong to give permission to what they consider an organised riot.

Salem, a county located within the region of Stockholm, has become an arena for known violent offenders and their organisations to march in the name of democracy, the councillors write.

Salem has been the scene of an annual march held on or around December 9th each year since 2000. The march is organized by neo-Nazi groups as a memorial to the death of Daniel Wretström, a 17-year-old neo-Nazi killed at a bus station between the town and neighbouring Rönninge.

The demonstration has become the largest recurring political demonstration by neo-Nazi groups and has surpassed demonstrations to mark the death of King Karl XII on November 30th.

Several militant left-wing groups arrange counter demonstrations every year and the otherwise quiet suburb is transformed into a hotbed of anger that often boils over into violent clashes.

Objections to the demonstrations have been building in recent years as local residents fear for their safety and against the notoriety that the march brings to their town.

Streets are closed in central Salem and widespread disruption in caused to shoppers and others going about their Saturday business. Many bus routes are taken out of service and commuter train services to Salem are considered by many to be too dangerous to use.

The police presence in the town is large, with 400 officers from across Sweden drafted in on Saturday to hold neo-Nazi and opposing groups apart. The authors of the debate article argue that the large police presence is sufficient evidence that violence is a very real risk.

Salem county tried in 2007 to have the police permit given to the neo-Nazis reconsidered in court but their request was rejected. The council is now pushing for the Supreme Administrative Court to consider their case.

The atmosphere is particularly tense this year as a consequence of fire bombing attacks in nearby Högdalen at the end of November and beginning of December.

The police have this year given permission for two Salem demonstrations.

The right wing Salemfonden have been given permission to march between 4pm and 7pm.

The opposing Nätverk mot rasism (network against racism) have been given permission for a standing demonstration between 12pm to 3pm. The network however wants to conduct a march and appealed against the decision by the county administrative court. The appeals court rejected their petition however.

Police on Saturday morning stopped a group of militant activists from Germany and Denmark in their vehicles by the motorway in the vicinity of Alby in south-western Stockholm.

“It was clear that they were on their way to Salem to stir up a fight,” said Michael Fertz to news agency TT.


Germany’s Chancellor Merkel warns on anti-Semitism ahead of Gaza protests

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday warned against any show of anti-Semitic or racist behaviour ahead of expected weekend pro-Palestinian rallies in the wake of days of fighting in the Middle East.

Germany's Chancellor Merkel warns on anti-Semitism ahead of Gaza protests
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a press conference in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on May 21st, 2021. Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP

Several German cities saw pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the deadly 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, prompting Merkel to issue a call for calm.

READ ALSO: Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’

“Those who bear hatred towards Jews in the street, those who incite racial hatred put themselves outside our Basic Law,” Merkel declared in her weekly podcast.
“Such acts must be punished severely,” she insisted.

Merkel noted that Germany’s constitution “guarantees the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. But it offers no place for attacks on people of a different confession, no place for violence, racism or denigration” of others and their beliefs.
German police made some 60 arrests last Saturday while some 100 officers were hurt as a pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin turned violent.

Some participants at marches in towns across Germany shouted anti-Semitic slogans, which Merkel blasted as “unacceptable”. Others burned Israeli flags
and, in one case, stoned the entrance to a synagogue.

More demonstrations in support of the Palestinians were scheduled for this weekend, in Berlin and in other cities.

On Saturday, a Jew from Berlin filed a complaint to say he had been attacked overnight by three unidentified men, police said.

The 41-year-old man, who was wearing a kippa at the time, said he was first insulted, then hit in the face, before his attackers fled the scene.

The authorities in Germany are worried about a resurgence of anti-Semitism from the far-right, notably since the October 2019 attempted attack against a
synagogue in the eastern city of Halle carried out by neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers.

The growing Jewish community in Germany numbers in the hundreds of thousands, many of them from the former Soviet Union.