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.