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Norway police ban both right-wing and counter demos

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Norway police ban both right-wing and counter demos
Fredrikstad. Photo: Tinieder/Depositphotos
16:47 CEST+02:00
Having blocked a neo-Nazi demonstration in the town of Fredrikstad, police in Norway have now also vetoed a counter demonstration.

A Norwegian Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity (Foreningen for kjønns - og seksualitetsmangfold, FRI) demonstration in the city on July 29th has been barred, police confirmed in a press statement.

“Several parties have alerted police that they wish to hold counter-events in connection with the Nordic Resistance Movement (Den nordiske motstandsbevegelsen, DNM) announcement that they planned to demonstrate in Fredrikstad on July 29th. Police have now decided to forbid the counter demonstration as with the refusal issued to DNM,” police wrote in a press message.

Police cited tangible evidence, particularly on social media, that far-right activists intended to travel to Fredrikstad in order to show their dissatisfaction should the counter demonstration go ahead.

In addition, police said that left-wing groups had intimated that they would use violence, physically means and disorder to stop the far-right movement from expressing itself.

“It is the task of the police to protect free speech, and facilitate legal expression. We now have a situation that presents a significant risk for public disorder and violent acts… The city's residents, tourists and the demonstrators could be put at unnecessary risk,” Police Chief Steven Hasseldal of Police District East (Øst politidistrikt) told broadcaster NRK.

READ ALSO: Norway under threat from neo-Nazi groups

FRI's chairperson Ingvild Endestad told NRK that she was concerned by the police decision to treat the two movements in the same way.

“I think it is very serious that police treat a neo-Nazi, violent group that wants to wipe some of us out in the same way as a street party celebrating diversity,” Endestad said.

The FRI leader said that she did not see the event planned by her organisation as having any intentions of being violent.

“Free speech required that we should be able to go freely where we want. It is the job of the police to make this possible,” she said.

But police concluded that the risk of serious disturbances of the peace was too great to let any of the events go ahead without comprehensive security arrangements such as roadblocks, checkpoints and heavy police presence.

“This is too great an inconvenience for a street party,” Hasseldal told NRK.

The bans put in police are valid for July 29th and are not general bans, he added.

DNM's lawyer Nils Nordhus told NRK that it was now up to the group whether it would consider demonstrating on an alternative date. 

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