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Prosecutor: slave auction was 'costume party'

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Prosecutor: slave auction was 'costume party'
11:47 CEST+02:00
A ”slave auction” held by a Lund student group in April was a ”costume party” meaning no charges will be filed against the organizers, according to the prosecution authority in Skåne in southern Sweden.

”They're basically saying that it is OK to demean Afro-Swedes as long as it is done as a costume party. That means that it is open season for anyone who wish to do so,” Jallow Momodou, chairman of the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund) told The Local following the announcement.

The incident, where three people with blackened faces and ropes around their necks were led into the hall by a "slave trader" and later sold, occurred at student association Halland Nation in April.

It was reported to the police by the Afro-Swedish Association.

After the incident, posters depicting chairman Momodou in chains started appearing in several public places in Lund and at the Malmö University College.

Controversial artist Dan Park was later apprehended by police when found plastering his posters over central Lund. He was charged on Thursday with both hate speech and defamation.

Park told The Local on Friday that he thinks prosecutors are overreacting.

”Was I suprised to be charged? Yes and no. I think it is a waste of tax payers' money mainly. It wasn't a big deal. And no one should be able to tell me what kind of art I can create, ” he said.

This isn't the first time Park gets in trouble for his controversial art projects.

In 2009 he was charged with hate speech after placing a canister of Zyklon-B gas outside of a Swedish synagogue. That time he was acquitted.

Park knows that his work sometimes causes people distress.

”We all have different tastes and people often get upset, but that is what art is about - creating reaction," Park said.

After the Lund ”slave scandal” became headline news, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), based in Brussels, wrote an open letter to Sweden's Minister for Democracy and European Affairs Birgitta Ohlsson expressing its utter disgust and condemnation ‘without reservation' to the actions, urging the Swedish government to take swift, disciplinary action.

Prominent American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson also urged Sweden to take measures to ensure that Swedes are made aware of the brutal reality of the transatlantic slave trade and Sweden's part in it.

While Lund University in May announced that it would launch a new programme to educate students and staff about the university's core values, the university's disciplinary committee later elected to take no action after reviewing the incident.

Now, the district prosecutor has chosen not to file charges against the student organization for the staged auction.

”We can't prove that the people who dressed up did so with the intention to show contempt for a people. It was a costume party really, and that has to be considered in this case,” said district prosecutor and hate crimes specialist Mattias Larsson to local paper Sydsvenskan.

Jallow Momodou thinks that it is a scandal that the party organizers will get away scot-free.

”There should have been legal consequences in order to show that it is not OK under any circumstances to demean a group of people this way,” Momodou said.

That Park, who was responsible for the posters, will be charged, is what one ought to be able to expect from the Swedish judicial system, argued Momodou.

”He broke the law and there should be a consequnce. But what he did was a direct reaction to what had happened in Lund. I think it is strange how they have reasoned in this case,” Momodou told The Local.

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