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Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Credit: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's prime minister troubled by Nazi demonstration

Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven said on Thursday that the Nazi demonstration in Gothenburg at the weekend had crossed "bounds of decency". The government has called for cross-party talks on how to counter "the anti-democratic forces in Sweden".

At the weekend, about 50 Nazis marched in Gothenburg without a permit. Another rally, by the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, (NMR), will take place in the west coast city on 30 September. That march has been issued a permit by police, who say that the freedom of assembly applies to all. 

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has now stepped into the debate on the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression, questioning whether this means that Nazis are able to assemble. 

"I feel so genuinely bad about this, we are passing the boundary of decentness. Now, one of these organisations is choosing - as I understand it - to test the boundaries of the police, by going out to march without permission," the Prime Minister said.

"I think that we really need to start to think about how we stand up for freedom of expression and the freedom to demonstrate and actually defend it. Because these forces do not think about the freedom of expression as part of the society they want - it is the other way around - and then democracy has the right to defend itself," he added.

Last Sunday, about 50 Nazis marched in Gothenburg without a permit.
Critics, from Centre party leader Annie Lööf to Left party local politician Daniel Bernmar, said police should have intervened to put a stop to the march, but regional police chief Klas Friberg defended the decision not to.

He told Swedish Radio that police don't have the right to disband a demonstration simply on account of the fact that the organizers haven't applied for a permit.  

Sweden's prime minister said on Thursday that he will ask the justice minister, Morgan Johansson, to take up the issue.

"When we see an escalation of these extreme forces, and we see we are moving towards a normalisation of racist parties, then we must do something," said Löfven.

Morgan Johansson in turn, told media that the government will invite the parliamentary parties for discussions on how to counteract anti-democratic forces in the country.

"We will start there, then we will see what proposals can be made, whether it is law enforcement action against hate crimes or a review of different laws," says Johansson.

He said the current debate is a classic "democratic dilemma."

"We protect democratic rights and freedoms. At the same time there are groups that want to abolish these. Then the question is how to handle that situation. This is nothing new but it has been in focus again, where the main issue is how we protect democracy against non-democrats," he tells news agency TT.

The anti-immigration Swedish Democrats, the third biggest party in parliament, have not been invited to participate in the discussions.

"We regard them as a racist party with Nazi roots. They do not have the same basic values in my opinion, and that's why we have not invited them," says Johansson.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson told newspaper Expressen that he wants to investigate criminalizing the NMR, and that the group should be considered as a terrorist organisation.


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