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White nationalists' protest rights called into question

Published fredag 18 november 2016 kl 13.28
Union rep: Whenever there's a Nazi demonstration it's followed by violence
(3:59 min)
NRM protest
Many have been critical about the police having to put major resources into security at far-right protests, such as the one in Stockholm on November 12th Credit: Johan Nilsson/TT

Whenever the far right organises rallies, critical voices are raised calling for a ban on protests by these groups. But the Swedish constitution does not grant the police the right to deny demonstration permits to groups based on their political opinions, an expert judge explains.

One those critical towards the police for granting demonstration permits to the far right is Sanna Tefke, a local representative of the trade union Kommunal. Tefke was one of the speakers at the counter-protest against the Nordic Resistance Movement in Stockholm on November 12, and she points to the fact that there are often violent clashes in connection with neo-Nazi protests.

“Last Saturday was one of the biggest Nazi demonstrations in years, there were more than 500 Nazis marching on the streets. Stockholm was not a secure place that day, for minorities and counter-protesters,” she told Radio Sweden.

One of the most common criticisms mentioned in connection with neo-Nazi demonstrations is that Sweden signed the UN convention on racial discrimination as far back as 1971. According to the convention's article 4, the parties to it should criminalise racist activities and membership in racist organisations.

But such a law does not exist in Sweden – and to introduce such legislation would likely require a change to the constitution, explains Supreme Administrative Court Justice Thomas Bull.

"If you would like, for some reason, to have a prohibition against organisations just because of their political opinions or their views on people, you would probably have to change the constitution,” he told Radio Sweden.

Nils Funcke, a journalist and expert on matters concerning freedom of speech, thought a ban on neo-Nazi demonstrations would be regrettable, as this could have a knock-on effect for other political formations.

“Society would move on to a slippery slope, at first prohibiting one -ism, and then more -isms would follow,” Funcke said.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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