Rajko Stankovic, 56, said so many people had turned up the protest — which featured a brass band, singer-songwriters, rousing speeches and a lot of sausages — that the chairman of the municipality had promised to review the decision.
“It’s fantastic from a town which only numbers 100,000,” Stankovic told The Local. “I feel extremely proud. Yesterday I had a big heart and today I do too.”
“He said: ’Rajko can stay in the same place. “We are a democratic country. We must listen to what people say’,” Stankovic claimed, saying he expected a decision on Monday.
Stankovic has become a much-loved feature of the town in southern Sweden since starting his city-centre food stall in 1997, four years after he arrived in Sweden as a refugee from Bosnia.
He claims to keep a watchful eye over the city centre during the weekend, tipping off the police if drunken brawls or other upsets break out in the early hours.
In 2013, he saved the life of a girl who jumped in the river which flows near his stall, diving into the water when the temperature outside was -4C.
“That’s why people are behind me,” he said. “They know I’ve done a lot for Halmstad. Everybody knows me: I’m a symbol of Halmstad and an icon of the town.”
When the city decided to move the stall as part of redevelopment, Pelle Bergkvist, one of his customers, launched a Facebook page “Let Rajko carry on selling sausages in Halmstad.”
The page quickly gained over 5,000 members, while an online petition supporting Stankovic has gained 1,329 signatures.
“My fundamental approach is always that no decision is set in stone,” said Lars Püss, the Moderate Party politician who heads the committee which made the decision told the local Halladsposten newspaper on New Year's Eve.
“There is a strong engagement in this from Halmstad’s citizens on this issue and that’s something we should take on board.”