Neo-Nazi rally draws counterprotests in Stockholm

Stockholm (AFP) –


Around 300 neo-Nazi activists demonstrated in central Stockholm on Saturday, drawing boos from protesters and politicians seeking to ban their movement.

Under the close watch of a detachment of police in riot gear, activists from the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) gathered in a square in the Swedish capital.

At the edges of the square, hundreds of counter-demonstrators gathered behind a security cordon, shouting slogans and banging the metal barriers in a bid to drown out the NRM speeches.

Among the protesters was Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who was born to a Gambian father and a Swedish mother.

Both the rally and the counter-protests ended peacefully without incident, an AFP correspondent said.

Sweden, which boasts a long tradition of welcoming refugees and persecuted groups, is experiencing a creeping rise in neo-Nazi activities in public and on social media.

NRM, which was founded in 1997, is a political party which openly promotes a racist and anti-Semitic doctrine and has been described as the country's most violent Nazi organisation by Swedish anti-racism magazine Expo.

Although the group counts a core membership of barely 80 members, it was more active than ever before in 2017, the magazine said earlier this year.

NRM says it wants to usher in a national socialist government.

For the first time in its 21-year history, the NRM will present a list of 24 candidates to run in September 9 elections, although the party is unlikely to pass the 4.0 percent threshold to enter parliament.

One of its candidates is facing a police investigation for raising a flag on April 20 in honour of Adolf Hitler's birthday.

Writing on Facebook on Saturday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he wanted to ban neo-Nazi organisations.

"Democracy has always had the right to protect itself from the forces willing to resort to violence to destroy it," he said.