A Progress Party politician has received a rebuke from his own government’s prime minister after he expressed support for a controversial group that’s begun patrolling the streets of several Norwegian towns and cities. Jan Arild Ellingsen, a Member of Parliament for the Progress Party, said he thinks the group makes a “positive contribution,” but Prime Minister Erna Solberg quickly claimed they have “no place” on local streets.
“The Soldiers of Odin have no place in the work to secure streets,” Solberg wrote on social media on Tuesday. She suggested they have “dangerous” values and added that Elligsen’s remarks, made during a morning radio talk show on state broadcaster NRK, “do not represent the government” or its views.
Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, who serves as finance minister in the coalition government that Solberg heads, also stressed that Ellingsen’s views do not represent the government and called his remarks “unwise” on NRK’s national nightly newscast Dagsrevyen. Nor did Ellingsen get any support from Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, also from the Progress Party, who’s been called upon to clarify how Norwegian police should deal with the “Soldiers of Odin” group that many Norwegians view as a vigilante group with racist overtones since it was founded by men in Finland with neo-Nazi connections. It emerged as a result of the refugee influx into Nordic countries.
“It’s the police who will keep our streets secure, and they cooperate well with both private security guard companies and volunteer groups like Natteravnene,” Anundsen told NRK, referring to the organization made up largely of parents who look after drunken youth out on the town on weekends. “I have difficulty seeing any role for the Soldiers of Odin in this connection.”
Members have taken it upon themselves to walk in groups wearing black hooded jackets adorned with a Viking helmet and Norwegian flag. Several of the group’s members have criminal records, according to police and a crime researcher who joined the group on patrol last weekend.
Instead of “securing the streets,” as they claim, critics say the group frightens local residents, not least those lacking Nordic facial features. Anders Werp, spokesman for Solberg’s Conservative Party on judicial issues, told NRK that the Soldiers of Odin and other groups like them “do not represent anything positive, we must be crystal clear about that. I get a bad taste in my mouth over what they’re doing. They do not contribute to making people secure, on the contrary.”
Some local police forces have voiced concern over the Soldiers of Odin’s patrols, while others have left them alone. On Tuesday, the leader of the Stavanger’s chapter of the Socialist Left party (SV) reported the group to the police, claiming they’re in violation of the law giving police the right to patrol city streets in Norway.
‘Racist street gang’
“They’re creating insecurity on the streets,” claimed Eirik Faret Sakariassen of SV, who turned in his complaint at the police station in Stavanger. “We can’t allow a racist street gang to take over police authority. I want the police to make both a professional and legal evaluation of whether this gang oversteps its bounds.” Sakariassen said he was reporting the group to police as a private citizen, not as a politician for SV: “I’m speaking up as a concerned citizen, and hope they’ll be removed from the streets.”
A spokesman for the Soldiers of Odin named Kim Mæland claimed the group hadn’t done anything wrong. “If the Norwegian people, and him, believe we have done something wrong, it’s just to prove it,” Mæland told NRK. “We’re not making the streets insecure. We’re there to make them safe.”