Police had made sure that their itineraries would not cross. “Our main aim today is to keep them apart,” police spokesman Kjaell Lindgren told AFP just before the marches began.
He declined to give the number of police on duty, but said that it would be “big enough to deal with any confrontation.”
In the end, the marches wound up without violence in Stockholm, and no incidents were reported from other parts of Sweden, police said.
Some 400 right-wingers had gathered on central Stockholm’s Odenplan square for a “People’s March,” including a group wearing a uniform of black berets, jackboots, khaki trousers and black tops, and brandishing brown and black flags.
“We are demonstrating on behalf of all those who still believe in nationhood and race,” said Per, a demonstrator who would only give his first name.
The rightists, marching in orderly formation, were outnumbered by left-wing demonstrators who started their march about a kilometre down the road at the same time.
Many of the leftwing demonstrators, who totalled 600 to 700 according to police estimates, covered their faces with black scarves and were carrying large square plastic shields.
Chanting slogans like “Fight fascism” and “Down with international capitalism” they moved towards the south of the city as riot police cordoned off streets.
Swedish media linked violent incidents in central Stockholm late Sunday to youths who came to Stockholm to demonstrate, but Lindgren said police had not established a connection “for sure”.
In two separate incidents, six youths attacked a young man at Skanstull underground station, and another gang caused a row in which a passer-by was smashed on the head with a bottle.
June 6th celebrates Gustav Vasa’s 1523 accession to the throne, which ended Danish rule, and the 1809 adoption of a new constitution, kicking off Sweden’s democratic tradition.
But while streets and buildings have traditionally been bedecked in the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag for the day, it only became a bank holiday following a parliament vote last December.