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Strong legal basis for neo-Nazi march

Published onsdag 27 september 2017 kl 09.17
Expert: Police must do what it can to protect a demonstration
(6:20 min)
Black-clad men marching with green and white flags with an arrow on.
The neo-Nazi organisation the Nordic Resistance Movement will be demonstrating in Gothenburg on Saturday. Credit: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Many people are angry that a neo-Nazi group will be marching in Gothenburg this weekend, but legal experts say there's not much that can be done to stop them.

"Freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration is highly ranked in the Swedish legal system, it is seen as one cornerstone of democracy that you should be able to express your views," says Vilhelm Persson, associate professor at the law faculty at Lund university.

That counts also for an organisation such as the Nordic Resistance Movement, which which openly calls themselves national socialists, who deny the holocaust and glorify Hitler. On Saturday, they will be marching through Gothenburg, where the annual book fair is taking place, and when the Jewish community is celebrating the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Earlier this week an administrative court modified the route that police originally had given the demonstrators a permit for. The new route is shorter, and will no longer start just outside the book fair, and will be farther away from the local synagogue.

Normally, says Persson, the police's job is to protect the demonstrators right to have a rally, and those opposing the march should not be allowed to silence it. But in this case, the court actually did take the possibility of counter-demonstrators into account.

"They said it is an atypical situation with many people in the city because of the Gothenburg Book Fair, so the court did take the counter-demonstration into consideration," said Persson.

Over the last few weeks, several people in the debate have reminded of how police used to deal with neo-Nazi demonstrations in Sweden, in the 1990s. Often the demonstrations were stationary, and under heavy police guard. Justice Minister Morgan Johansson remembers how police in the beginning of 90s would give a sister organisation to today's NMR a permit to demonstrate not in the centre of Lund, but on a sports field outside the town centre.

"After that the demonstrations dwindled quite quickly," he told Swedish Television's Agenda programme.

Vilhelm Persson says this option is still within the law, although the Gothenburg police has ruled it out.

"I think the police's interpretation of the law has shifted, because the law as such has not shifted," Persson told Radio Sweden.

Vilhelm Persson welcomes that more of these cases are brought to court, especially when public debate runs high and many fingers are being pointed in different directions.

"The more cases that are tried in court, the clearer the law gets, you get more information about the interpretation of the law," he 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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