The NRM march was one of six demonstrations in the central Swedish town of Falun on Monday, with a couple hundred supporters of the neo-Nazi group marching through the heart of the city. The group was part of as many as 5,000 participants who had turned out for a traditional May 1st celebration and was greeted by counter-demonstrators along the route.
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist blasted the group’s presence in Falun, saying that NRM represents “crimes against humanity”.
“This is an important day for our society and resistance against the Nazis,” Hultqvist said. “One can question whether it is fair that May Day has to take place with a police presence in order for people to feel safe.”
NRM has participated in May Day demonstrations before, including last year in Borlänge when an image of one woman’s defiant resistance to the group went viral.
NRM also made news last month when it was announced that the militant neo-Nazi group will attend Sweden’s iconic political event Almedalen Week.
Officials in Falun took measures to keep Monday’s demonstration safe, including removing all loose items from outside of stores along the route.
“We feel safe. The police have a routine for handling these situations,” city leader Patricia Granhagen said.
Around 200 police officers were on hand on Monday, roughly the same number that monitored NRM’s May Day demonstration in Borlänge last year.
Karl-Erik Pettersson, a high-profile Social Democrat in Falun, expressed anger on Monday morning that the neo-Nazis were overshadowing a day meant to recognize workers’ rights.
“It is horrendous and a threat to our democracy that a party that does not stand for the equal rights of all people is given an opportunity to be seen on this day meant for the labour movement. But our parade will be bigger than ever,” he said.
A counter-demonstration greeted NRM as its members marched through Falun. Photo: Ulf Palm / TT
Dalarna county governor Ylva Thörn said she had “mixed feelings” about NRM being allowed to participate in the May Day celebrations but that the group’s presence may spur others to reflect about Sweden’s open democratic society and not let it succumb to “dark forces”.
Mikael Mogren, a bishop at a church passed by the neo-Nazi march through Falun, said NRM’s presence would not affect the church’s message of openness and diversity.
“There is a seriousness in the air. Not only in Falun but throughout the world. Out here on the square it is like a militarized zone with a lot of police. But the church is a sacred space for fellowship and we will have a fine service,” he said.
Swedish anti-racism foundation Expo warned last year that NRM was mobilizing and recruiting new members. Expo studied the background of 159 of the organization's most active members and found that 26 percent had been charged with violence or weapon offences in 2015.
According to Expo, more than half of the activists (56 percent) had at some point been convicted of some form of criminal offence. In almost a fourth of the cases the sentence included time in jail.