The demonstration is a response to mounting restrictions seen as interfering with civil rights and has been described as “the nearest Sweden has seen to an anti-lockdown movement”.
Several hundred people gathered this past weekend to demonstrate against the Swedish government’s COVID-19 measures, which they believe infringe upon freedom and civil rights.
The demonstration went by the name Thousand People March for Freedom and Truth and was organised via Facebook. Among other things, the protesters carried signs reading “Police Power No Thanks” and “Human Rights”.
The crowd numbering about 600 people marched across central Stockholm, but was met by the police who tried to stop the demonstration by forming a wall of vehicles. Following failed attempts at dialogue, the police later responded by using batons and pepper spray against the protesters.
tusenmannamarschen var roligare än förväntat
hell boomers! pic.twitter.com/fyN0Pxz53X
— ᚷᛟᚱᛞᛟᚾ (@Gordonblixt) March 6, 2021
Stor uppslutning vid #Tusenmannamarschen https://t.co/vnhrFpQ7jN
— Vaken.se (@vakense) March 7, 2021
While the demonstration was initially described as peaceful before the clashes with the police, five policemen were later reported as injured.
“Today we had to dissolve a meeting. This after we made several attempts to have a dialogue with both the organiser and the participants, which didn’t give the desired result”, Anna Nilsson, who was responsible for the police effort, told national broadcaster SVT.
Stockholm Police Chief Mats Löfving called the demonstration “remarkably bad judgement”.
“What we have seen unfold in Stockholm is a demonstration that lacked a permit and led to a riot where several police officers were injured. The protesters, despite repeated calls, refused to dissolve, and the gathering was held in violation of regulations aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. It is of course remarkably bad judgement and completely unacceptable”, Mats Löfving said, as quoted by SVT.
National Police Chief Anders Thornberg underscored that violence against police employees “will never be accepted” and said that his thoughts go out to the injured.
Sweden’s temporary pandemic law allows a maximum of eight people at public gatherings such as demonstrations. The organiser did not apply for permission for the demonstration and has now been reported for violation of the law. He has been questioned by police and is facing fines of up to SEK 20,000 ($2,340).
The anti-racist think tank Expo described the protests as “the nearest [thing] Sweden has seen to an anti-lockdown movement” and suggested an “interest from the right wing” and “participation of extremists”, despite numerous people of colour seen in the crowd.
Tänk att det gått så långt att en färgad man styr och kontrollerar de högerextrema i Sverige. Det är fasiken progressivt på riktigt. #svpol #pklogik pic.twitter.com/sYM4cwt3qM
— Roger större än Expressen o Aftonbladet Sahlström (@ROGSAHL) March 6, 2021
Tweet: “Imagine that it has gone so far that a man of colour controls the right-wing extremists in Sweden. That’s really progressive”,
Organiser Filip Sjöström said in a statement on Facebook that has no regrets.
“Do I regret this? No. I have never felt more free, free to stand tall in my truth, not to hold back anything and live to the fullest”, Sjöström wrote.
Sweden, a nation of over 10 million, has seen about 685,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 13,000 deaths, more than its Scandinavian peers combined. After months of what many described as a laissez-faire approach, Sweden has been tightening the screws and introducing restrictions.