Man in car emblazoned with Nazi symbol plows into refugee demo in Sweden
A man suspected of having neo-Nazi links has confessed to driving his car into a crowd of rejected Iraqi asylum seekers who were protesting against their deportation in the Swedish city of Malmo. Police have opened a hate crime investigation.
The man, 22, whose identity has not been revealed, admitted that he had driven his car into the crowd of asylum seekers, who rallied outside the Swedish Migration Agency office in Malmo on two occasions last weekend.
The perpetrator’s car had a Nazi symbol on it, police confirmed to local media. A video obtained by Swedish national public broadcaster SVT Nyheter shows the car with a Nazi eagle and swastika on its front.
No one was injured in the two incidents, which took place on Saturday, June 10, and on the evening of Sunday, June 11. However, during the latter incident the assailant eventually crashed into a tree after driving over a number of placards and banners placed by the protesters in front of the migration office.
The man was then forced to barricade himself in the car as it was surrounded by angry protesters, who kept him inside until police arrived. He was then detained and questioned.
“He said he's doing it to make a point. That he does not think they [Iraqis] should be in the country,” Sandra Persson, a police investigator, told the Swedish Aftonbladet daily, adding that it was a “clear hate crime.”
Lars Foerstell, a press communications officer at the Malmo police department, also confirmed that the man had two knives in his possession, adding that he had also used pepper spray against the protesters.
The car used in the attack belonged to the assailant, Swedish media report, citing the investigators.
One of the witnesses of the attack said that the man apparently intended to injure the protesters. “We felt that he drove his car [intending] to hit [us]. The car drove at a fast pace towards us in the dusk,” Ali Almousawi, one of the Iraqi demonstrators, told SVT.
The suspect now faces charges for vandalism, hate speech, violation of the Weapons Act and an attempted attack. He was released after questioning while the investigation continues.
Aftonbladet reports that the man also allegedly has links to the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) and repeatedly participated in its demonstrations and meetings.
It was not the first such incident surrounding the refugee protest outside the office of the Swedish Migration Agency in Malmo, which was held for several days and was staged by some 20 rejected asylum seekers.
“It is not the first time when something happens. Earlier, some men came here, who threw firecrackers at us and made Nazi salutes,” Almousawi told SVT. He also added that on one occasion men came with two dogs and unleashed them on the protesters.
Police were deployed to the scene of the protest after the Sunday incident. In the meantime, the demonstrators intend to continue their rally until their cases are reviewed.
“We will stay. We protest against returning to Iraq,” said Almousawi, adding that returning to their home country would be “too dangerous” for the Iraqis.
In 2016, Sweden saw a surge in neo-Nazi activities, with 3,064 such activities documented, according to Swedish anti-racism foundation Expo. That number represents the highest figure since Expo began carrying out yearly studies on the issue in 2008.
Most of the activities were carried out by the NRM, which was mostly engaged in spreading its message.
In 2015, Sweden took in the largest number of refugees per capita in Europe, as nearly 200,000 asylum seekers and migrants entered the Nordic country, whose laws regarding refugees are among the most liberal in Europe.
The mass inflow of refugees and migrants placed an increasing strain on the country’s police. In 2015, Swedish police released a report describing 53 districts throughout the country as “vulnerable," and 15 listed as “especially vulnerable."
Such districts have a high crime and poverty rate and serve as hotbeds for religious extremism, posing “unique challenges” for police, the report said. In June, police added eight more areas to the list of “especially vulnerable” zones, raising the number to 23.