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Prosecutor: slave auction was 'costume party'

Rebecca Martin · 28 Oct 2011, 11:47

Published: 28 Oct 2011 11:47 GMT+02:00

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”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.

Story continues below…

”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.

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:48 October 28, 2011 by Douglas Garner
My brother posted a cartoon on his Facebook page today that depicted the devil holding a sign that essentially says that god doesn't like bigots, and below him are three different religious groups holding signs expressing their particular bigoted beliefs.

Has the artist in this article behaved any differently? Then again, costume events have often expressed controversial ideas and opinions about ideas and people in the news or history. If we follow Jackson's way of thinking, even a representation of Little Red Riding Hood could be challenged as being against the natural rights of bears and other living creatures...
14:13 October 28, 2011 by GLO
A sane act of law. Whats going on here, I expected the Death penalty...
14:55 October 28, 2011 by Smiling Canuk
Finally, a victory against the forces of political correctness.
15:48 October 28, 2011 by Valdemaratterdag
It seems that editors of "TheLocal" should also be charged with hate speech: after all, they are also showing the poster of the chained black man.
15:53 October 28, 2011 by k2kats
If this information is correct, I am deeply disappointed.

While the "party" may not have been in violation of Sweden's current laws, a just analysis should take account of not only the (albeit self reported) motivation of the "party" organizers, but the consequences of their actions.

This has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with inciting hate.

At minimum, I would have expected disciplinary action (i.e. suspension of party privileges and mandated, active participation in the upcoming education program) for all "party" goers.
16:19 October 28, 2011 by Kaethar
"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.

It's not, nor should it ever be, against the law to "demean a group of people." Is wearing a fatsuit demeaning to fat people? Is eating publically demeaning to anorexic people? It's amazing how he doesn't realise that there will always be people offended by everything.

Now Dan Park on the other hand is more of a grey area since his motive to attack/insult is obvious. Although I do not believe he should have been charged his actions could very well fall under Sweden's hate speech laws - something the costume party at Lund could not.
16:36 October 28, 2011 by RobinHood
Perhaps opponents of the prosecutors decision can explain to us why he was incorrect in law. Hate crimes are notoriously hard to prove. The prosecution had little chance of success, and in those circumstances, it was his duty to drop the case.
16:43 October 28, 2011 by Douglas Garner
Re: Dan Park... is his work significantly different from political satirists in the daily newspapers? Perhaps this isn't so popular in Sweden, but in the US and UK it is like a popular sport!
18:22 October 28, 2011 by space2
I'm comming from Transylvania. From now on no-one should wear a vampire costume, since it's demeaning for Transylvanians!
18:27 October 28, 2011 by Imperor
Real hate crimes are easily proven, the ones that are hard aren't hate crimes...

"Remember the trans-atlantic slave trade and Swedens part in it", yes, we know, and you are the one living in the past, keeping it alive instead of moving forward!

Stuff like this IS what keeps the debate alive and the wrongdoings remembered.

When a hate crime is "hard to prove" it's because the only hate is from the so called "hated", the ones that can't move forward. Not the ones shedding light on the absurdity of still being accused of anti-semitism as soon as you criticize Israel for intentionally targeting children with laser guided bombs...

(Arabs are a Semitic people, the worst anti-semites we have in the world today are the Zionists who kill arabs!)
18:30 October 28, 2011 by The_Truthisbitter

It means we can just take some guns and jump into a bank with a group of Camera men as part of a dress rehearsal and that would be completely ok within Swedish Law??

That is indeed good news
18:32 October 28, 2011 by Migga
Nothing should impied on our right of freedom to express ourselfs in anyway we want.
18:36 October 28, 2011 by Scansson
This Halloween I'm going to Malmö dressed as Muhammad wearing a face mask of a Dog : )
21:33 October 28, 2011 by Douglas Garner
@migga... are you forgetting about the rights of OTHERS or are you making a joke?
22:25 October 28, 2011 by johnoleson
I see the editors of "The Local" take no chances when it comes to hate speech. The article "Swedish court bans niqab-wearing women" could be so explosive the comment section has been left off. I suppose for fear someone might say something wrong. When it comes to the discussion of Islam you just can't take chances. It took some real courage to even publish the article.
00:39 October 29, 2011 by The_Truthisbitter
@Johnoleson...I agree with you. totally...The LOCAL shouldnt be deciding what it wants us to comment about...If they are doing bold journalism they should give us the right to comment.. Disguting!!!
09:53 October 29, 2011 by Kevin Harris
For hate crime to exist, there must be hate. A bunch of drunken idiot students having a party does not equal hate, or even mild dislike.

I expect Mr Momodou is less than popular in Lund though.
08:52 October 30, 2011 by salalah
It is good that the students re-enacted a slave auction. Many people have forgotten the athrocities committed against black people by the Swedish King in the 18th century when Sweden was looking for new ways of income and bought St. Barths to engage in slave trade. Thousands of black people were sold to other colonies and the US.
11:52 October 31, 2011 by soultraveler3
What those students did at that party was tasteless, crass and stupid.

They made themselves look like hicks, but unless they were going around preaching hate, threatening, intimidating or harming a group of people or encouraging others to, it's hard to say it's hate speech. That's why they weren't charged with anything.

The artist is a shock artist. They sit around and try to figure out how far they can push the line without getting into too much trouble, in order to get a reaction out of people.

It isn't my favorite type of art, because honestly, it doesn't take much intelligence, creativity or talent to think of and create something super nasty, crude or insensitive that will shock the general public. Almost anyone can create art with or cover themselves in feces, fake blood, Nazi symbols, giant dildos etc. and come up with some pseudo-intellectual reason to explain "the meaning" behind it.

Still, I think he should be allowed to do what he does. It's not really any different than that cartoonist that drew the Mohammed picture is it?

It's a slippery slope when you start censoring art and artists. Shock art would go first, then satire, parody etc. It wouldn't be good.
23:26 October 31, 2011 by Los Lubricano
Jesse Jackson is a joke in the USA. All people in Sweden should read the book

Shakedown. After the book came out Jackson was invisible for a while. The author challenged Jackson to sue him if there was one sentence that was not true in

the book. He declined. My favorite was he was counseling President Bill Clinton

on religion after the Monika Lewinsky affair while Jackson's girl friend was pregnant with his child. He extorted millions of dollars from business for his

Rainbow Coalition with threats of black demonstrations. Read the book Sweden you have been fooled by this phony. We have some great black leaders

in the USA. Jesse Jackson is a fake and a fraud. Read the book.
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