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Why Swedes are rallying in their thousands against neo-Nazis

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Why Swedes are rallying in their thousands against neo-Nazis
Swedish police managed to herd the neo-Nazi counter-demonstrators into nearby woods on Sunday. File: TT
14:57 CET+01:00
PICTURE GALLERY: Several thousand Stockholmers say they will take to the streets of Kärrtorp on Sunday to protest racism anew, after a plethora of scrawled swastikas sprouted up again after last weekend's violent counter-demo by neo-Nazis.

"We will never be scared into silence," the event organizers Linje 17, named after the local metro line, wrote on their new event page on social media site Facebook. By Tuesday, more than 5,000 users had said they would attend the event, which was posted on the site only hours prior.

The organizers have applied for but not yet been granted or denied permission from the Swedish police to assemble.

Sweden was left shocked by the attack with fireworks and bottles slung into the crowd of anti-racism protesters on Sunday. One mother who attended the event with her children said the fireworks were heavy duty and loud enough to startle the adults and frighten the children.

"Children were crying," she said.

IN PICTURES: Swedish police herd neo-Nazis away from anti-racism demonstrators in Kärrtorp on December 15th, 2013

Olle Eriksson attended the event with his four-year-old daughter. "We are more than them. We are right and they are wrong. No pasaran!" he wrote on Facebook after the attack. 

"On Sunday, fascists tried to scare us off the streets," Eriksson told The Local. "But they didn't succeed, and were instead driven away by (demo) participants and the police. This Sunday, we're gonna meet again, and hopefully we'll be even more people this time."

Eriksson, who comes from a smaller Swedish town, said there were quite clearly a lot of neo-Nazis in Sweden during his teenage years. At that time, however, they were clearly identifiable as skinheads and there was a more cohesive "neo-Nazi culture".

"Now they are back, but today they look just like anyone else," he lamented. 

"With a fascist party in parliament, the boundaries have shifted," freelance journalist Eriksson said in reference to the populist, anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats. "People don't raise their eyebrows any more. But at the same time, the fact is that the majority of Swedes don't want these dark forces. Not on our streets, not in our parliament." 

Hermes Holm was not at Sunday's original demo but now plans to attend the new rally.

"It's always the 1990s for me, because I don't look Swedish," Holm, who has Greek heritage, told The Local.

He was concerned that initial media reports at first stated that Sunday's "demonstration had gone awry", which he said felt like the peaceful protesters were blamed for taking along their children and placing them in harm's way.

"You have to be able to stage a peaceful protest against Nazism without being dubbed a demonstrator," he said. 

He instead blamed the violent flare-up on what he feels is an increasingly divided Swedish society. 

"Sweden has a lot of people who don't feel important, and that's a very broad and multi-faceted political problem," the Stockholm-based PR consultant said. "It's a kind of poverty of the soul created by politics that have social effects. Racism and Nazism afford an immediate reward to its propagators."

"The worst thing that could happen now is that people put on a muzzle and stop working against Nazi reactions for fear of stirring up violent reactions," Holm added. "We have to have a progressive dialogue about equality, class and race in Sweden." 

Swedish police initially denied knowledge of any plausible threat to the anti-racism protesters who had a permit to assemble this past Sunday. On Tuesday, the police said they had been aware of the potential of a counter-demo, but said the information was not passed along in a manner that would have allowed them to ensure proper backup to the few officers on the ground.

As a band of mostly youths attacked the peaceful demo, police had to push the neo-Nazis from the Swedish Resistance Movement out of the suburb into a patch of forest. 

Swedish police detained 26 people, of whom more than half are younger than 20 years old. Just two days after the attack, metro workers in Kärrtorp saw three young men flee the scene after spraying the station with graffiti.

The police confirmed vandals had scrawled swastikas across Kärrtorp and nearby Bagarmossen. 

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