Salem 2008: Gross attack from the police against the right to demonstrate

Here you can read Revolutions report and comments about this years antifascist demonstration in Salem, Stockholm, in english. The introducing passages have been added for our foreign readers to give a bit of a background to last weeks developments.

Every year, the Swedish Nazi network, Info-14, organise a so called ”memorial march” in Salem outside of Stockholm. The claim they march in celebration of the young Nazi Daniel Wretström, who was killed in a youth row in 2000, and in protest of so called ”anti-Swedish violence”. The march is used by the Nazis to build their movement of terror, and to recruit people who believe in their propaganda. In their attempts of turning street violence between youth into a question of race and ethnicity, they try to recruit to a movement that fights for race war.

Naturally, REVOLUTION participates in the counter-mobilisations each year. This year saw an especially violent build-up, as the Nazis directed several attacks against trade unionists and anti-racists in Stockholm. On November 29th, participants in a public meeting organised by the Network Against Racism, the main anti-fascist network in Stockholm, were attacked by fascists connected to Info 14. Several comrades were brutally assaulted. That same night, Cyklopen, a social centre built with donated labour and open to all of the left, was attacked by arsonists who burned it to the ground. And, most loathsome of all — the next night, Sunday 30th, a young family in Stockholm were also victims of arson. Even as the father, a trade unionist with the Syndicalist union, screamed that there were kids in the apartment and asked them to stop, Nazis pour gasoline through the door mailbox and lit it on fire. The father, his wife and two year old child managed to climb over to another neighbour through the balcony. The flat was on the third floor — the fact that they survived was a miracle.

On the same day, Nazis had announced their intentions to ”take back the streets” of Lund in southern Sweden. 50 Nazis, mostly youngsters, were met by thousands of Lund’s inhabitants and anti-fascists of all ages, and it was only through massive police protection that they managed to escape being smashed up by the crowds.

On to Salem, Saturday the 6th of December. For reports of previous Salem protests, see http://www.revolution.se/english.

The police showed up in force and denied anti-fascists the right to protest the Nazi march in Salem outside of Stockholm. As many as 500 activists were stopped from even participating in the Network Against Racism protest in Salem, despite it being previously granted a permit from the authorities. This is the REVOLUTION-Sweden report from Salem 2008.

As usual, the Nazi demonstration in Salem was protected by a massive police presence. This year, however, the repression was taken up a notch when the Network Against Racism (NMR) was stopped from going through with its planned demonstration. The promise from earlier that day about allowing an anti-racist demonstration was apparently revoked. This represents an escalation from the police force’s side, one supported by bourgeois politicians in the Salem municipal council — who’ve argued for increasing restrictions on the freedom to assembly. The police strategy had immediate effects — but only for the ones coming to Salem to protest against the Nazis. When 500 anti-fascists had gathered in Salem, the police stopped around 300 comrades who had just arrived by commuter train to nearby Rönninge station. Buses and trains with anti-fascists were stopped, and protesters travelling from Norway and Denmark were taken into custody and deported en masse. In all, around 500 people were barred from practising the rights the workers’ movement has won through hard-fought struggle over the years.

The worst repression was directed at the people who were stuck by Rönninge station. When trying to block the train platform in opposition to the police assault, they were baton-charged and maced. Many were forced into a train that then left for Sollentuna, north of Stockholm. The police said that no one was forced to enter the train — a lie later exposed by TV pictures showing the contrary. We want to express our solidarity with everyone subjected to repression at the train station, and especially the ones who were assaulted by the police and taken into custody.

When the 500 activists who had managed to get to the gathering in Salem were informed about how the police had denied the comrades at Rönninge station their democratic right to assembly, and that they had been victims of severe repression, the steering group in charge of the Network’s demonstration decided to march to Rönninge station in protest. This didn’t fell out as it was supposed to, though, as the cops quickly blocked off the entire street going through the centre of Salem. We were left standing there, and decided to block off the road instead.

Some of the comrades who were supposed to speak to the demonstration were present, and for a couple of hours, the assembled activists could listen to speeches and music. People were constantly being updated on the latest development at the station and on the police violence. In speech after speech, participants condemned the cops’ actions. REVOLUTION didn’t record all speeches, but here’s a short recap of them:

The Anarcha-feminists of the demo’s feminist separatist bloc talked about the need for connecting the struggle against women oppression with the anti-racist struggle, and discussed fascism as a misogynous ideology.

An activist from immigration solidarity group No One Is Illegal talked about the severe oppression of immigrants, about how immigrants’ stories and experiences are discredited, and about the need to conduct an international struggle in a capitalist world, were the access to human rights is dependant on citizenship and connected to bourgeois national states.

The REVOLUTION speaker pointed to the recent international successes of the extreme tight, and analysed this as an integrated part of the capitalist assault against the working class, an assault that is becoming more aggressive in times of financial crisis. The speaker argued for the need to fight for revolutionary socialist alternatives, and called for organising the anti-racist movement with revolutionary methods.

A speaker from the anti-fascist group Revolutionary Front condemned the police actions against her comrades and called for struggle to stop the Nazi march. We also heard a comrade from the Young Socialists [Swedish Foruth international youth], who had managed to escape arrest at Rönninge station and told us about the police brutality there.

The atmosphere was one of indignation, and when the master of ceremonies took up chants such as ”The police of today protects the Hitler of tomorrow”, the sound level was noticeably increased. The activists kept their calm, however, and did not confront the massive police lines encircling them. Obviously, our position was weak due to the split-up of the demo, and the massive police presence. At 3 PM, when our demonstration permit expired, the steering group decided to declare the blockade and manifestation dissolved. Everyone was informed about the police presence in the area, but still encouraged to stay in Salem and show courage to stand up for their beliefs.

In summary, this was a rough day for the anti-racist movement. The police attacks on our attempts to unite and form a powerful demo meant that the Network had to improvise. It is the opinion of REVOLUTION and our comrades in Arbetarmakt, the Swedish section of the League for the Fifth International, that the Network’s steering group did the best they could of a harsh situation. Cooperation within this group — between activists from different organisations (one of them ours) — worked well, and everyone was decisive to do their best under the conditions that were. This lead to wise decisions; we can all be proud over our common work. This augurs well for future cooperation.

But everyone didn’t join the march heading to Rönninge station. By the original gathering point a couple of hundred meters away from the main demo, stood the Justice Party — Socialists [or RS, the Swedish CWI section], having decided not to join the demo, but to stay just there instead. They also handed out flyers asking people to follow them in this, despite the fact that this opposed everything the Network’s steering group, of which they are a member, had decided. Considering the small group of CWI members who could be seen standing around by the grim gathering point, though, apparently this had little effect on activists not under the CWI’s direct discipline. Ultimately, by going through with a successful protest despite all circumstances, the Network’s steering group showed that the CWI group was wrong. If they’d accepted the will of the majority and continued to assume their part of the work in the steering group, they could’ve helped make the protest even bigger, with even more participants!

We won’t say too much about the Nazi march. But we note that they continue to decline in numbers. This year, they were slightly less than 700, their lowest number ever. Every year, the Nazis have managed to get fewer and fewer people to their demonstration — their loose, non-organised periphery shrinks and only the hardcore, openly Nazi cadre is left. During the Nazi march, activists from Stop Nazism — Active Non-Violence (SNAIV) bravely stood by their path, holding up posters with names of people murdered by the Swedish Nazi movement over the years. Even though we have our differences with the pacifist strategy to build the movement that SNAIV advocates, it was obviously a successful protest, given duly attention in the press.

Meanwhile, in central Stockholm, activists from the Swedish TUC, the Young Left, Social Democratic Youth and other reformist organisations gathered for a peaceful protest. Attempting to achieve ”broad” unity against fascism on the grounds of moral condemnation of Nazism in general, the protest was yet again much smaller than the Network protest in the comparatively more remote Salem. Between 100 and 150 were reportedly in attendance there. Yet again, we regret the fact that the reformist movement has chosen this path. With their support the protests in Salem could be considerably bigger, and that in itself’d make it harder for the police to attack basic democratic rights. Individual members from Young Left and the Social Democratic Youth were surely in attendance in Salem. They need to question the tactic of their leadership, and discuss how to best fight fascism.

Naturally, REVOLUTION and Arbetarmakt share the anger and frustration of other protestors over the police’s attacks on our rights and our possibility to protest the Nazis. But we also feel stronger now: together with other comrades of the NMR, we tried to do the best out of the situation. Our justified anger must be turned into continued struggle. The Network has already sent out press releases regarding the police brutality and their assaults on our rights. Now is the time for further evaluation and discussion on future initiatives. The Salem campaign of 2008 was excellent in many respects. We’ve been a thorn in the flesh of the Nazis, shown great initiative, and, importantly, reached out to workers and youth by public meetings, school campaigns et cetera. We need to continue and deepen this cooperation in order to build the movement for battles in the future.

The struggle continues — smash fascism!

REVOLUTION Sweden

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Det här inlägget postades i Antifascism, In English. Bokmärk permalänken.

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