At 11:34am on Sunday, August 31, I received the following alert from the US Government:
“A large area of central Stockholm will be cordoned off by police on Saturday, August 30, 2014 between 09:00-18:00 hours due to an authorized political meeting being held by the Neo-Nazi “Svenskarnasparti” (The Party of the Swedes). A demonstration against Svenskarnasparti is expected, estimated at 10,000 people, positioned at Gustav Adolfs Torg, just outside the MFA. The demonstration is scheduled to begin at 14:00 hrs.”
Quick aside: the MFA is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs or Utrikesdepartementet.
So the warning came a day late. In fact, I’d already heard about the warning coming from the US about the demonstration. I went to the protest against the neo-Nazi group anyway. Mostly because I can’t believe there are neo-Nazi parties in Sweden that are given police protection under the guise of freedom of speech to hold rallies in the middle of Stockholm.
|That's a lot of peaceful protestors.|
While I was there, I saw over 10,000 people peacefully protesting against a handful of neo-Nazis. The number floating around the crowd was that there were only 75 neo-Nazis at their rally. So the anti-Nazis far outnumbered them.
I saw people with their families. Parents and children holding balloons and little heart placards. Grandparents with their grandchildren. Old and young and everything in between.
I saw people singing and dancing. In several languages. I saw signs. Flags. Banners. I saw musicians playing drums. Even a saxophone.
I saw a whole lot of people who were there to protest the neo-Nazi party that, for some reason, continues to be given credence in this country. Unfortunately, many of the reports I read afterwards focused on 15 minutes of commotion.
And if you’ve been paying attention to the news, no doubt you saw that there were clashes. I also saw that. A group of plainclothes police walked into a crowd. They stood there. Doing nothing. Then something happened. I still don’t know what. They circled up and pulled their batons. The crowd gave them space. They called for the police in riot gear. There were two young men who were aggressively yelling, maybe ten feet from the police officers. But at this point, there was no one throwing a thing. Not a thing. People had been throwing things. Mostly smoke bombs. There were also people yelling to stop throwing things. But as the riot police arrived, I didn’t see a single thing being thrown. And then they charged.
At this point, I thought it best to go home. I was in no way interested in clashing with a police force that seemed all too ready to clash. And then I started reading about what happened. As if the 15 minutes of bull-rushing police officers were the story. As if the story of the day should have been about a imagined (and wholly false) full-scale militant attack by the protestors.
The story should be that many in Sweden will not tolerate neo-Nazis. And that many in Sweden are growing tired of the protection granted to hate-speech spouted by the neo-Nazis. The story should be about over 10,000 peaceful protestors and an atmosphere that was really, quite calm orderly, Swedish, for the vast majority of the time.
Welcome to Sweden. And anti-Nazi protests.