In the small hours of Saturday, around 30 young women gathered outside the Club Prive, a sex club in downtown Stockholm which offers strip-tease and lap-dancing, blocking the entrance.
Initially peaceful, the demonstration turned violent after three men, two club staff and one client, confronted the demonstrators, Stockholm police inspector Anders Nordberg told AFP.
More men joined in the brawl and in the ensuing violence, three men were badly injured and taken to hospital with head and face injuries. Police said the protestors appeared to have used baseball bats and umbrellas in the fight.
“When two bouncers attacked two women, the others acted to prevent their friends from being dragged into the club,” a demonstrator, Monica Johansson, told the TT news agency, denying that baseball bats were used.
Police arrested a total of 16 women, including six 17-year-olds, and eight men. By Sunday morning, they had all been released, pending possible charges for aggravated assault, Nordberg said.
A club official told the Aftonbladet daily that a demonstrator confronted him in a “martial arts posture”, that bottles were thrown at bouncers and umbrellas aimed at their heads.
In a statement, the demonstrators said they had wanted to protest against Club Prive as “a symbol of the acceptance of the oppression of women”.
The statement was signed “Feministas”, the name of an existing Swedish feminist group but Feministas spokeswoman Marita Ulvskog said she knew nothing about the protest and her group distanced itself from any violent action.
“Even if we are against porn clubs and other activities which use women as objects and exploit them, violence or threats are never a good means to change things,” she said.
Club Prive is one of about a dozen sex and pornography nightclubs in the Swedish capital, and the most notorious.
Its owners have been under investigation for tax fraud and failing to pay social charges, and it has been the target of several protests.