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Rainbow flag compared to swastika by councillor

A councillor in Västerås, central Sweden, is facing an angry backlash after comparing the flying of a rainbow flag with putting up a Nazi swastika.

Rainbow flag compared to swastika by councillor
People holding a rainbow flag at the Stockholm Pride festival in 2013. Photo: TT

Morgan Emgardsson, who is a councillor for the centre-right Christian Democrat party in the city of Västerås, rejected a motion by the City Council to fly a rainbow flag to mark the city’s gay pride festival, saying that if the flag was approved then the Nazi flag should also be allowed.

Emgardsson then attempted to clarify his position, saying: “I just wanted to say that if we allow the disclosure of an organization’s flag, then we must allow others. The municipality should just have the Swedish flag and its own flag.” 

Flying the rainbow flag, which has been a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements since the 1970s, was nevertheless overwhelmingly approved by the City Council.

Moderate councillor Johan Henriksson, who proposed the motion, described the councillor’s remarks as “upsetting”.

“There’s a big difference between a swastika and a rainbow flag. Rainbow flags don’t belong to any organization. It is a symbol for the right of all people to love whoever they want,” he was quotes as saying by Swedish broadcaster SVT.

A spokesperson for the Christian Democrats told The Local the comparison was “unacceptable”.

“This is not what we stand for as a party,” she said. The spokeswoman added that the councillor had since apologized for the comments, saying that he did not mean to make the comparison in that way.

The Local has also contacted the gay rights organization RFSL for comment. 

Emgarsson is expected to release a statement later today.

The Christian Democrats are one of the smallest political parties in Sweden, but had a strong presence in the previous national goverment as part of former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Alliance centre-right coalition.

CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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