Jewish leaders argue that right to assemble is ‘not absolute’.
Jewish leaders have appealed a decision by Gothenburg police to grant a demonstration permit to a neo-Nazi group for a march on Yom Kippur.
The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is planning to march around 250 metres from the main synagogue in Sweden’s second city, in what appears to be a deliberate provocation to the country’s Jewry.
Around 18,000 Jews live in Sweden, mainly comprising Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
“Swedish Nazis’ growing presence is a significant cause for concern, not least for us Jews,” Aron Verständig, chairman of the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, and Allan Stutzinky, chairman of the Jewish Community in Gothenburg, wrote in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.
The planned neo-Nazi rally has drawn vast media attention in Sweden and has stirred a debate about the freedom of assembly. In a television interview, Mr Stutzinsky said the event represents Jews’ “worst nightmare”.
While he and Mr Verständig said they believe the freedom of assembly ought to apply even to Nazis, they argued that the right “is not absolute”. They said it can be infringed upon where there is a threat to public order and safety.
They have urged the police to adjust the route of the demonstration so that it does not pass near the synagogue. However, Gothenburg city centre is small and any march would inevitably pass near the synagogue, the police say. The police have also already restricted the NRM’s march, after the neo-Nazis had hoped to get closer to the Gothenburg Book Fair, which is also taking place on September 30.
Police commissioner Erik Nord told Swedish radio that he and his colleagues are simply following Swedish law. “The paradox is that the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, which came about after the Nazi crimes during the Second World War, state that it is incredibly important to have freedom of opinion, democracy and assembly,” Mr Nord said. “One could say that what we’re doing here is contributing to upholding democracy.”
The Anti-Defamation League has expressed “deep concern” and urged Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, to ensure the safety and security of Gothenburg’s Jewish community.
Earlier this year, the ADL voiced concern over the closing of a Jewish community centre in Umeå, in northern Sweden after threats and vandalism by neo-Nazis.