Police in Bergen arrested 15 people after a demonstration by the anti-Islam organization SIAN turned violent on Saturday. Most of those taken into custody for disturbing the peace were between 15- and 25 years old.
SIAN’s demonstration led to what was described as “chaos” in Bergen’s central plaza known as Festplassen. Around 150 counter-demonstrators faced off against the anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant group, eventually so provoked that they broke through police barriers and fights broke out. SIAN’s bloodied leader Lars Thorsen was escorted from the scene.
Police resorted to using tear gas to break up the demonstration, and were criticized for allegedly excessive use of force. Demonstrators later surrounded the central police station but later withdrew. Police claimed at a press conference later in the afternoon that they would undertake a review of their response after first being charged with protecting SIAN’s right to demonstrate.
“It all escalated very quickly and that was stupid,” demonstrator Liv Kathrine Gutal told NRK, “but I don’t think it’s right for police to use tear gas.” Another counter-demonstrator, Stein Olav Paulsen, said that SIAN “wants to provoke people, and they managed to provoke some young, frustrated men.” The resulting violence, he added, “has nothing to do with our message to SIAN, and the police didn’t manage to stay in control of the situation. It’s not okay to spray tear gas at lots of children and youth.”