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6 Jun, 2017 21:24

Neo-Nazis allowed at Swedish political event by mistake, organizers seek help from police

Neo-Nazis allowed at Swedish political event by mistake, organizers seek help from police

The organizers of Sweden's annual politics week has asked police to prevent a neo-Nazi group from attending the event, after initially allowing the controversial group to rent a space there by “mistake.”

Almedalen politics week is an annual tradition in Sweden, during which politicians and lobbyists gather in the Gotland Municipality town of Visby.

Although the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) was granted space at the event last month, its application was reportedly approved without anyone checking what kind of organization it was.

And the municipality's technical committee, which is responsible for the hosting and general organization of the event, lacks the power to reverse its decision.

It is now asking police to intervene, stating in a letter that it is "wrong for organizers or organizations who clearly stand for anti-democratic and violence-promoting messages to be allowed to rent land from Gotland municipality," The Local reported.

The committee also stated that the planned presence of NRM at the event has caused significant concerns for security and safety in the city.

Tommy Gardell, the technical committee's chairperson, says NRM should not have been granted a space at Almedalen, calling the decision a mistake.

"Had the issue been taken to the technical committee and to me as chairperson we would have said no and they could then have appealed," he said.

It appears though, that Almedalen organizers had plenty of opportunity to learn about NRM after Sweden's parliamentary parties urged them not to allow the organization to rent space at the event.

"As the main organizers we urge Gotland municipality (Region Gotland) not to grant land to NRM or other anti-democratic and violence promoting organizations during Almedalen Week," the parties wrote in a joint statement last month, as quoted by The Local.

The parties were able to prevent the organization from taking part in the official program of events, but have no authority over the allocation of space which is the municipality's responsibility.

In addition, Swedish media also covered the party's application to the event in April, putting NRM’s core values and beliefs further in the spotlight. 

NRM’s application was still approved, and the group is set to attend the event unless police are able to act on the technical committee's request.

The Feminist Initiative (FI) party has threatened to boycott the event if the decision to rent space to NRM isn't reversed. "Boycotting Almedalen shows FI is against the legitimizing of racism and Nazism, while at the same time we want to show our solidarity with all of the people and organizations who, because of the perceived threat, are forced into silence or to not attend Almedalen at all," party leader Victoria Kawesa said in a statement.

Last year was a record year for neo-Nazis in Sweden, with 3,064 documented activities carried out by such groups, according to Swedish anti-racism foundation Expo. That number represents the highest figure since Expo began carrying out yearly studies on the subject in 2008. 

NRM was mostly responsible for the surge, according to Expo, with the spread of propaganda being their most popular activity.

"They're the most extreme end of this white supremacist area. There's a lot of crime associated with them, they have a relationship with violence," Expo researcher Jonathan Leman told The Local last month. 

This year's Almedalen event is scheduled to take place in Visby from July 2-9.