Around one hundred anti-immigration protesters gathered in Sweden’s capital Stockholm on Saturday amid tight security a day after a masked mob threatening migrants went on the rampage.
Protesters holding placards demanding Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven resign waved Swedish flags as police officers stood on guard.
“This is a demonstration that attracts groups and individuals who sympathize with or are active in this, what should I say, radical nationalistic landscape. The Sweden Democrats are here but there are also many people from different parts of this new power group, as it is often called, the new group of race ideologists,” Jonathan Leman, a researcher who was observing the protest from afar said.
A counter demonstration took place nearby on Saturday, which police said attracted around two hundred people, leading to clashes between the two groups.
“There were some clashes between a few individuals. We think they were linked to the demonstrations taking place earlier,” said Goran Bylund, a police officer at the scene.
A man said he was attacked by an anti-immigration protester but police arrived quickly.
“Yes, we came from the demonstration. We were standing, waiting to cross the road, when I was pulled down to the ground and one of them tried to kick me in the head, but I managed to grab his foot. Then the police arrived promptly and put a stop to the whole incident,” Ola Hakefelt said.
Police officers were also seen arresting people seated on the ground following the protests.
A gang of masked, black-clad men rampaged through the streets of Stockholm on Friday night after handing out leaflets threatening to attack migrant street youths, “to make a statement”, with police saying on Saturday two arrests had been made.
The police said one man had been arrested for punching a plain clothes officer in the face and another for carrying a brass knuckleduster, but the extent of any assaults against immigrants was not clear.
Swedish dailies quoted witnesses saying a number of people had been attacked by the men who were thought to belong to “firms” of hooligans associated with local soccer teams.
The leaflets handed out on Friday, which were confirmed by police as being the same as were posted on Swedish social media, read, “When Swedish streets are no longer safe for ordinary Swedes it is our DUTY to fix the problem…Today, therefore, 200 Swedish men gathered to make a statement against the North African ‘street children’ who are ranging around the capital’s central station.
The incidents highlight the growing tensions over immigration in Sweden, a country of 10 million which received 163,000 asylum seekers last year, and comes days after a 22-year old female worker was stabbed to death in a center for unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in southwestern Sweden.
Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said on Saturday the attacks were carried out by “racist” groups spreading fear and hate and had to be met with force.