Protestors for and against a new mosque in Gothenburg in southwest Sweden flocked to the building Saturday, prompting the city’s biggest police deployment in a decade to avoid clashes.
Three different groups have been given permission to gather and march towards the mosque. Two of the groups, Gothenburg against racism and the Left party, support the construction of the mosque. The third group, organized by the National Democrats and a group called the Swedish Defense League, are against its construction.
Around 100 people, many waving Swedish flags and wearing T-shirts with a red line drawn through a picture of the mosque, joined the right-wing demonstration against the building, which is set to be inaugurated next month, police said.
“Warning! Sweden is occupied by a foreign power!” one of the fliers they handed out read, blaming Islam for among other things “terror with suicide bombers,” “gang rapes,” “child brides” and the “robbing of pensioners.”
At the same time, two separate left-wing marches in favor of the Islamic place of worship drew around 700 people, according to police, although organizers insisted the counter demonstrations attracted some 2,000-2,500 people.
Police, who had expected several thousand protestors to show up for the demonstrations, would not say exactly how many officers had been deployed, but added it was the most since Gothenburg was hit by riots in 2001 during the EU protests.
“We have a lot of officers on site and are following developments closely,” police spokesman Jan Strannegaard told AFP, adding police were using dogs, horses and helicopters in their bid to keep the peace.
"We have blocked off a large area around the mosque so they can’t get at each other or damage the mosque," he explained.
Strannegaard said 13 of the left-wing protestors had been taken into custody Saturday morning "for disturbing the peace," while an AFP photographer saw 27 other left-wingers being detained after they tried to get closer to the mosque and the right-wing demonstrators.
Left-wing organizer Tomas Traegaardh, the head of the Gothenburg Network Against Racism, criticized the police decision to keep the protestors far away from the mosque and each other.
"We want to show that Nazis are not welcome in Gothenburg," he told AFP, adding that the "massive" showing on the left "must have crushed their self esteem."
Around 2:00 p.m., police suddenly bussed away the right-wing protestors, who had been scheduled to remain until evening, "because they wanted to leave and we were concerned about their safety," Strannegaard explained.
The left-wing protestors quickly disbursed after that, he said.
May 21, 2011, Islamtoday