Politicians were quick to say that they do not support the Soldiers of Odin. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
A Progress Party MP set off a firestorm by saying that groups like the Soldiers of Odin should be applauded.
The Progress Party's Jan Arlid Ellingsen said in a Tuesday radio debate that the self-declared patriot group Soldiers of Odin should be “praised”.
“Progress of course doesn't give unlimited support to the Soldiers of Odin. But the situation is that we have for a long time had a situation in our streets that nobody wants, where crimes are committed and other actions we don't want occur and the Norwegian police don't have the resources to do the job. Thus we think that any citizen who wants to contribute to reducing insecurity and reducing crime should be praised for it,” he said.
Other Progress members quickly came out to distance themselves from the remarks, including the party's leader, Finance Minister Siv Jensen.
“I do not agree with Ellingsen's statement. I believe that it is the job of the police to contribute to the safety of the Norwegian society. And they are doing that in a good way,” she said.
Norwegian PM Erna Solberg also quickly rejected the remarks.
“The Soldiers of Odin have no place in keeping the streets safe. Dangerous values. Ellingsen's remarks do not represent the government,” she wrote on Twitter.
The government's political support party the Liberals also slammed the remarks, as did Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, a fellow Progress Party member.
“It is the police who should make our streets safe and they cooperate well with security guard companies and volunteers. I have a hard time seeing how the Soldiers of Odin have any role in the situation,” he said.
The Soldiers of Odin are volunteer street patrols who claim to be protecting locals from crimes. The group is based on the Finnish Soldiers of Odin, which has links to neo-Nazis and was founded last year in response to a record number of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, claiming that the influx has led to a rise in crime.
The spokesman for Norway's chapter, Ronny Alte, said the group is not specifically targeting migrants but he too has a past in Islamophobic groups such as the Norwegian Defence League and German-based Pegida.
The Norwegian police have said that “some of the members of the group have links to criminal circles”.
Ellingsen said he doesn't want to see the Soldiers of Odin take over the police's role, “but if they can help give Norwegian residents and others in this country increased security and reduce crime, then we think it is a positive contribution”.
The MP's remarks came in a debate against his Hadia Tajik of the Labour Party, who said the Soldiers of Odin's ties to neo-Nazis “represent a set of values that obviously do not contribute to increased safety in Norway”.