(Skip to about 45 seconds to hear the noise. It is not necessary to understand Swedish to get the message!)
SD’s town square meeting in Göteborgs had to be canceled because of noisy demonstrators who chanted slogans for nearly one and a half hours at a stretch. To drown out meetings with chants is legal and the police cannot take action against them, according to police commanding chief Lena Matthijs.
When the Sweden Democrats began their town square meeting at Gotaplatsen in Göteborgs at 11.30 yesterday they were met by a crowd of between 700 and 1000 people, who came there to protest against SD.
Protesters banged on drums and blew whistles. Hundreds of people chanted slogans such as “no racists in our streets” and “we’re all anti-fascists” over and over again, interspersed with loud boos. Some threw eggs and gravel-filled plastic bottles.
Behind the police roadblocks stood SD’s party leader, Jimmie Åkesson, along with some party colleagues and waited to be able to start their speech.
“We will not talk until the police quiet these extremists. I really cannot understand how difficult it can be to take the instruments and drums from them. It should be very simple. But apparently the police have other priorities,” said Åkesson to Göteborgs-Posten while demonstrations were continuing.
But the noise from the protesters did not stop. After waiting for over an hour, Åkesson left the site to go on to another town square meeting in Kungälv.
“Victory is ours, we have won, the victory is ours,” chanted the protesters when it became clear that the meeting has been cancelled.
Afterwards the SD leader was strongly critical of the police, saying that they had not done enough to stop the noise.
“We waited 80 minutes for the police to make them be quiet.” tweeted Åkesson.
When Fria Tider spoke with commanding police chief Lena Matthijs, who was responsible for the operation at Gotaplatsen, she said that the police had no legal reason to intervene to stop the loud chants.
“There is a fair amount of case law on this from New Democracy public meetings if we go back to the 90s, so it’s pretty well documented. If you are just making noise, whether with an orchestra or whistles or vuvuzelas or whatever it may be, and someone else has a gathering, then it can become disruptive of public assembly.
“But if by chanting the others are engaged in expressing their own opinion, this is not to be regarded as public disorder, nor disruptive of public assembly. The freedom of expression of the various individuals has to be compared. And they basically all have equal freedom of expression.”
According to Matthijs that principle applies even if the consequence is that speakers who have sought permission for a meeting in advance are drowned out by counter-demonstrators without permission.