A Swedish offshoot of the German Islamophobic movement Pegida on Monday evening held its first protest in the Scandinavian country, but was vastly outnumbered by counter demonstrators. The rally in the southern city of Malmo attracted about 100 supporters, while police estimated that the counter demonstrators numbered around 4,000.
Reporters at the scene said it was impossible to hear what the two Pegida speakers had tried to say, even though they used bullhorns. One of the speakers was art gallery owner Henrik Ronnquist. Last year he was fined for showing work by artist Dan Park, who received a six-month sentence for inciting racial hatred for derogatory depictions of Roma people and Africans. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Police had erected riot fences around the Pegida speakers and their supporters. A few fireworks and eggs were thrown at them, but did not cause any harm. A young woman managed to scale the fence and remove her top to reveal the text “No to Pegida” on her chest. She was quickly dragged from the scene by police officers.
Counter demonstrators shouted slogans like “No racists on our streets,” waved flags and banners, and booed. Nearby St Peter’s Church, part of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, conducted a worship service in solidarity with Muslims in Sweden. Church bells tolled before the service began.
The Swedish protest follows similar ones conducted by the group Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West, or Pegida, which has staged near weekly protests in the eastern German city of Dresden since October.
Similar protests have also been held in recent weeks in other German cities, as well as in Austria, Denmark and Norway. However, attendance has dwindled.
The emergence of Pegida has coincided with a surge in popularity of populist parties and groups across Europe, many of which want to toughen immigration laws. SAPA