A right-wing extremist group that was banned from marching in Fredrikstad over the weekend spurred counter-demonstrations after they marched illegally in Kristiansand instead. More than five-times the number of people who marched on Saturday turned out Sunday to demonstrate their disgust.
“When I heard that neo-nazis had come down to Kristiansand I got really angry,” Dennis Torkselsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He initiated Sunday’s march on the southern coastal city’s main boulevard known as Markens. Torkelsen is also the local leader of the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF, which was targeted by an ultra-right-wing extremist six years ago who killed 69 people at an AUF summer camp on July 22, 2011.
“I think a lot of other people got angry, too. and felt a need to say so,” Torkelsen said. “There were a lot people who came on short notice to show support for our message of tolerance and democracy. “I’m incredibly touched that so many came.”
Police failed to stop Saturday’s illegal march
An estimated 300 people marched after around 70 members of a right-wing extremist group called Den Nordiske Motstandsbevegelsen (The Nordic Resistance Movement) marched carrying flags on Saturday. The extremists’ application to march in Fredrikstad on July 29 had been rejected, so they moved their protest to Kristiansand without applying to local police for permission. That made their march illegal under Norwegian law, but police didn’t stop them from marching.
Police in Kristiansand actually ended up escorting the extremists, to protect them from others provoked by their march. NRK reported some angry confrontations, with one woman yelling at the marchers that they should be ashamed of themselves.
Some spectators were so provoked that they also confronted the marchers, including one local man out walking with his son. Steffan Strandberg told NRK the marchers responded by threatening him and filming him and his son in what he interpreted as an attempt at intimidation. Police, he claimed, did not respond to the threats.
Another man wbo grew up in Kristiansand claimed he also got into a row with the marchers and one of them broke one of his ribs. He claimed police handcuffed him instead of the extremist.
Disgust also directed at police
The police reaction and their refusal to stop the march drew criticism over the weekend, with some politicians calling on Sunday for a Justice Ministry inquiry. Police claimed they were merely trying to prevent violence, and had opted not to stop the march because that could have inflamed the extremists. “It was an evaluation we made,” one police official told NRK.
The marchers on Sunday seemed nearly as disgusted with the local police as they were with extremists. They carried banners reading, among other things, “No nazis on our streets,” and had obtained permission to march themselves.
“The police must apologize and acknowledge the criticism for even allowing the march (on Saturday),” Mali Steiro Tronsmoen of the Socialist Left party (SV) declared in a public address during the march. “They should have stopped them.”
Kristiansand’s Mayor Harald Furre of the Conservative Party told NRK he could understand that many were upset. He stressed that the extremists are not welcome in Kristiansand and called the demonstration and counter-demonstration “extremely unfortunate.” He said the police decision would be examined after the summer holidays.