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Uproar and serious clashes have broken out since Thursday in Sweden on the fringes of rallies by a far-right and anti-Islam Danish group, which planned to burn Korans in several towns. On Sunday, police said three people were injured after apparently being hit by police bullets during a clash.

Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan in 2017 established the Danish far-right Stram Kurs, or Hard Line, movement, which trumpets a strong anti-immigrant and anti-Islam agenda. On Thursday and Friday, the party live-streamed video of Paludan burning the Koran — Islam’s holy book — in different Swedish cities. Paludan is known for staging such burnings.

During demonstrations on Friday, protesters and counterprotesters clashed in the central city of Orebro. On Saturday, clashes occurred in the southwestern city of Malmö, which the Swedish police described as a “messy night” with many “disturbances in the forms of fire and attacks on the police,” as well as Molotov cocktails and stones thrown. Vehicles, including a city bus, were set on fire. In a statement, the police said their aim was to maintain the “constitutionally protected freedom of expression and assembly” of the licensed assembly and counterprotesters.

On Sunday, Paludan posted on social media that he would cancel demonstrations in Linköping and Norrköping — nearby cities in eastern Sweden because the police had shown they were “incapable” of protecting themselves and Paludan.

The same day, three people in Norrköping were apparently hit by police bullets after authorities fired warning shots while attempting to disperse protesters angry about the last days’ demonstrations, the Associated Press reported. They “seem to have been hit by ricochets,” the police said in a statement, adding that the three were not seriously injured but were receiving medical care.

In a Sunday interview with Swedish daily Aftonbladet, Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told the rioters to “go home.” Johansson labeled Paludan a “right-wing extremist fool, whose only goal is to drive violence and divisions” but added that “Sweden is a democracy and in a democracy, fools also have freedom of speech.”

In 2020, Paludan was sentenced to three months in jail for charges including racism and defamation.

In 2019, his party came close to entering parliament in Denmark. Though Stram Kurs did not gain a seat that year, Denmark notably saw a mainstream shift right on anti-immigration policies. In 2018, the nationalist and right-wing populist Sweden Democrats, a group with neo-Nazi origins, won about 18 percent of the votes in Sweden’s general election. Its boost was attributed by analysts in large part to anxieties over crime and migration.


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