Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered for a peaceful manifestation in the centre of Stockholm. They listened to live music and speeches and they sang and danced. The manifestation was being held to shine a light on the rights of unaccompanied refugee children in Sweden.
About 30 people from a right-wing group decided to attack the demonstrators with verbal abuse, threats, kicks and punches. Many of the victims were teenagers who were left shocked, scared and even more isolated from the society that is hosting them.
Is this what we want the streets of Sweden to be like? Groups of thugs attacking peaceful demonstrators and youngsters? In my world, this is totally unacceptable.
Democracy in Sweden is about having the right to express your opinion, whatever the political colour. It is about creating change through dialogue and activism. It is about getting involved and giving your opinion. It is not about employeeing violent methods to subdue and placate contradicting points of view. It is not about threatening and trolling and spewing hate. It is not about spreading fear in others just because I am fearful myself.
As members of an open, democratic country, each and every one of us should verbally and actively condemn what happened yesterday in Stockholm. A few short weeks after the love manifestation that filled the streets of the capital, we should not accept this attempt to drag our democracy into the shadows. This is not what we want on our streets, in our homes or in our society.
Yesterday, after the attack was over, people stayed behind to console and comfort the teenagers who has been brutally attacked. According to a witness, one of the teenagers found a thread of strength from within. He stood up and held a heartfelt, dignified speech – in Swedish. And he finished with a song – ‘Sverige’ (Sweden) by pop group Kent. One of the lines goes something like this:
‘Welcome, welcome here. Whoever you are, wherever you are.’
In that one song, this teenager showed us all what is means to be dignified and strong in the face of adversity. Violence and hate is not welcome here.