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Norwegian police clash with counter-demonstrators at Koran-burning event

Norwegian police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration on Saturday afternoon, after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.

A photo of a Koran
A photo of a Koran, the sacred scripture of Islam. Photo: Unsplash

The anti-Muslim organisation “Sian” held the demonstration in Sandefjord, which is about 90 kilometres south of Oslo, where they burned the Koran on Saturday afternoon.

Between 300 and 400 counter-protesters turned up and clashed with police.

“Right now it’s a little unpredictable here. There are a number of gatherings with people who push towards the blockade, and the police have had to use gas against them”, station manager Siw Thokle at Sandefjord police station said on Saturday afternoon.

Sian began their demonstration at 3pm and police interrupted it at 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.

“For the sake of the safety of those involved…the police considered it necessary to end the demonstration that Sian carried out in Sandefjord today”, police station chief in Sandefjord, Siw Thokle, told NRK.

Sian’s own video footage from the demonstration showed stones and eggs being thrown at its members.

Police chief Thokle told news agency NTB that one counter-demonstrator got over the fence that was set up around the Sian members, during the burning of the Koran. That person was immediately arrested by the police. Thockle said on Saturday afternoon that she did not have figures on how many in total were arrested.

Thokle told news agency NTB that Sian leader Lars Thorsen had announced earlier that the Koran would be burned.

“Basically, it is not a criminal offence to burn the Koran, and we therefore have no plans to intervene against it. Work is now being done to calm the mood,” Thokle said.

She emphasised that the police were present in large numbers and they had not received reports that anyone was injured.

Koran-burning, which Rasmus Paludan, the leader of Danish far-right party Stram Kurs has been behind in Sweden, has led to unrest in several Swedish cities recently.

During the Easter weekend in Sweden, around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included burning the Koran.

Swedish police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Riots over Koran burning test Swedish tolerance

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COVID-19

IN PICTURES: Protests spread across Europe as coronavirus surges create new lockdowns

Tens of thousands of protesters angry at Covid-19 restrictions rallied in cities across Europe on Saturday as several nations reimposed partial lockdowns to fight new surges in infections.

IN PICTURES: Protests spread across Europe as coronavirus surges create new lockdowns
Protestors gather for a demonstration to demand the compliance of basic rights and an end of the restrictive coronavirus measures in Kassel, central Germany, on March 20, 2021.(Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)

The coronavirus, which has killed more than 2.7 million people globally, has been spreading faster recently, with the number of new infections up globally by 14 percent in the last week, according to AFP data.

That has forced governments to impose social distancing and movement restrictions again, even as vaccines are rolled out, with residents across Europe facing fresh and tougher measures.

But populations have grown increasingly weary of the economically painful restrictions, and frustrations spilled over in cities across Europe, with thousands marching in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland.

Demonstrators in the German city of Kassel held up signs including “End the Lockdown” and “Corona Rebels”, as they participated in a protest attended by activists from both the far-left and the far-right, as well as advocates of conspiracy theories about the pandemic and vaccines.

READ ALSO: ‘We don’t tolerate such attacks’: German police use batons and pepper spray at Covid protest in Kassel

Authorities used water cannon, batons and pepper spray to disperse the Kassel protests, which a Kassel police spokesman said numbered between 15,000 and 20,000 – one of the largest such rallies so far this year.

In Sweden, police disbanded demonstrations against virus restrictions in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö on Saturday.

The current law in Sweden allows a maximum of eight people to gather in one place. But when the demonstrations began at 1pm in the major Swedish cities, police were quick to point out that they were in breach of the law.

There were also anti-restrictions protests across many cities in Europe, including Düsseldorf, Vienna and the Swiss town of Liestal.

In Austria, about 1,000 protesters gathered to protest against the government’s virus measures near the capital’s central train station. Police reproached several protesters who were not wearing masks and gathering close together, news agency APA reported.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How European countries are faring against ‘third wave’ of Covid infections

Here are this weekend’s protests across Europe in pictures:

A protester holds a placard stating ‘freedom’. Photo: Thomas Johansson / TT
Flowers and candles are placed at the statue of the founding father of Gothenburg, king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, in Gothenburg’s Gustaf Adolfs torg town square during Saturday’s demonstration against coronavirus restrictions. Photo: Thomas Johansson / TT 

Protesters gather in Malmö, Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

Protestors take part in a march demanding the compliance of basic rights and an end of the restrictive coronavirus measures in Kassel, central Germany, on Saturday. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
Protestors hold up a banner reading ‘Corona rebels Düsseldorf’ as they take part in a demonstration to demand the compliance of basic rights and an end of the restrictive coronavirus measures in Kassel, central Germany, on March 20, 2021. – Several thousand critics and so-called ‘Querdenker’ from all over Germany were expected to take part in the protest organised by the group ‘Freie Buerger Kassel’. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
A protester wears a mask reading “Mask mandatory, shut your mouth” during a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal, near Basel, on March 20, 2021. – Between 3,000 and 5,000 people, some of them wearing white suits, take part in a ‘silent demonstration’ on March 20, 2021 in Liestal, Northern Switzerland, demanding an end to restrictions designed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
Protesters dressed in white take part in a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal, near Basel, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
A protester smokes through a personalised mask during a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal, near Basel. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
Police clear protesters from a square at the end of a demonstration. (Photo by Yann Schreiber / AFP)
Police try to push back protestors who take part in a demonstration. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
(Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
Protestors gather for a demonstration in Kassel. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
Police in riot gear and wearing face masks are pictured at the end of a demonstration in Kassel, central Germany, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by Yann Schreiber / AFP)
(Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
A protester wears a placard reading “modern slaves wear masks!” during a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
A protestor wears a face mask with the tag reading ‘monetary fine protection’ in Kassel. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)

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