HELSINKI (AP) — Unrest broke out in southern Sweden late Saturday despite police moving a rally by an anti-Islam far-right group, which was planning to burn a Quran among other things, to a new location as a preventive measure.
Scuffles and unrest were reported in the southern town of Landskrona after a demonstration scheduled there by the Danish right-wing party Stram Kurs party was moved to the nearby city of Malmo, some 45 kilometers (27 miles) south.
Up to 100 mostly young people threw stones, set cars, tires and dustbins on fire, and put up a barrier fence that obstructed traffic, Swedish police said. The situation had calmed down in Landskrona by late Saturday but remains tense, police said, adding no injuries were reported in the action.
On Friday evening, violent clashes between demonstrators and counter-protesters erupted in the central city of Orebro ahead Stram Kurs’ plan to burn a Quran there, leaving 12 police officers injured and four police vehicles set on fire.
Video footage and photos from chaotic scenes in Orebro showed burning police cars and protesters throwing stones and other objects at police officers in riot gear.
Kim Hild, spokeswoman for police in southern Sweden, said earlier Saturday that police would not revoke permission for the Landskrona demonstration because the threshold for doing that is very high in Sweden, which values free speech.
The right of the protesters “to demonstrate and speak out weighs enormously, heavily and it takes an incredible amount for this to be ignored,” Hild told Swedish news agency TT.
The demonstration took place Saturday evening in a central park in Malmo where Stram Kurs’ leader Rasmus Paludan addressed a few dozen people. A small number of counter-protesters threw stones at demonstrators and police was forced to use pepper spray to disperse them.
Paludan himself was reported to have been hit by a stone on his leg, Swedish media said. No serious injuries were reported, according to police.
Since Thursday, clashes have been reported also in Stockholm and in the cities of Linkoping and Norrkoping — all locations where Stram Kurs either planned or had demonstrations.
Paludan, a Danish lawyer who also holds Swedish citizenship, set up Stram Kurs, or “Hard Line” in 2017. The website of the party, which runs on an anti-immigration and anti-Islam agenda says “Stram Kurs is the most patriotic political party in Denmark.”