Crews remove Davis Cup paving stone threat

Road crews in Malmö have succeeded in removing piles of paving stones which police said would stop them from providing security for Sweden’s upcoming Davis Cup tennis match against Israel in Malmö.

“I’ve been out there this morning and am satisfied with what I’ve seen. The stones are more or less gone and during the day some other things which have concerned me will also be taken away,” said Skåne police safety representative Kaj Svensson to the TT news agency.

According to the city’s roads department, the office had planned to remove the stones before police voiced concerns to the press on Wednesday, but wanted to allow work on the site to continue as long as possible before taking the stones away.

The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported on Thursday that police would refuse to provide security for the tennis match against if the city didn’t remove the stones from near the arena.

Hundreds of police officers have been called to help maintain order during the match, which is being played behind closed doors due to security concerns.

Authorities expect roughly 10,000 demonstrators to fill the streets of Malmö near the Baltiska Hallen arena.

“There is a significant risk for violent disruptions in Malmö from Friday to Sunday,” police commander Håkan Jarborg Eriksson told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Outside the venue, however, several large piles of paving stones sit waiting to be placed in a nearby road construction site, causing concern for officers’ safety.

“The piles of stones which are now sitting outside Baltiska Hallen are ammunition for some of the activists,” Svensson told the Polistidningen newspaper earlier in the week, according to DN.

“My demand is unconditional. The stones must be gone by today, Thursday, at the latest. Otherwise I’m going issue a stop due to safety concerns and then there won’t be a single police officer on the scene.”

Svensson said that the city had already managed to remove 170 truckloads of broken asphalt from the same construction site, but that he couldn’t “risk the lives of his colleagues” and let the pavings stones remain.

Ever since Israel’s offensive in Gaza erupted last December, a “Stop the Match” campaign has been underway in Sweden calling for a boycott of the Davis Cup match as a way to protest Israel’s actions.

Police say they’ve had a healthy dialogue with “Stop the Match” activists, who expect 10,000 supporters to gather on Saturday for what they characterize as a “peaceful rally”.

But authorities remain concerned that up to 1,000 other groups, some of which have indicated they plan to take a more hard line stance, may cause trouble.

While police plan on taking a cautious, non-confrontational approach, they are ready for action if necessary.

“If a vehicle with players or the Baltiska Hallen were to be attacked, we’d naturally use full force,” Jarborg Eriksson told DN.