Do the Swedes ban large demonstrations during the Corona?


“No country in the world has restricted demonstrations in legislation,” “In no democratic country has the right to demonstrated been violated.” These are some of the decisive statements written on the net to warn of the new emergency powers the government is promoting. These powers include a total ban on demonstrations of more than 20 people – a force that the government has not had since the start of the Corona plague. But is it really a world precedent?

Homeland Security Minister Amir Ohana clung to a surprising example. “In Sweden, a gathering of more than 50 people is forbidden for any purpose,” he told Network 13. “We do not talk about what you want to say, what you want to do – but more than 50 people are forbidden. Not even for a demonstration.”

Could it be that the Swedish government, which was famous for its liberal approach to the closure, is interfering in basic elections such as the right to demonstrate? It turns out yes.

The corona regulations published in Sweden at the end of March, when the corona had already claimed 30 victims a day, banned any gathering of more than 50 people. For the avoidance of doubt, the guidelines included examples of activities that would be prohibited. The first example was “demonstrations protected by freedom of expression.”
Indeed, two cases indicate that the Swedish government was not content with statements. In June, a demonstration of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement was held in Stockholm. The demonstrators had approval, but the success was in their backyard. When the number of participants reached 8,000, the police enforced the restrictions and dispersed the crowd.

In the same month, a demonstration of environmental activists took place in the city, spread over three centers – on two bridges, and in the plaza of a government building. The police claimed that the demonstrators exceeded the allowable quota, this time organizers themselves asked the audience to leave the extension to the demonstration is not dissolved.

How do you explain the fact that Sweden – a country where civil rights are enshrined in a written constitution – sends police to disperse peaceful protesters? The explanation lies in a special section that has existed for a jubilee year in the constitution itself. The first chapter of the Swedish Constitution, ratified in 1974, is dedicated to the Bill of Rights. The right to demonstrate and the right to gather are between them; But the drafters of the document set reservations for them. Article 24 states: “The freedom of assembly and the freedom of demonstration may be restricted in order to maintain public order and public safety in meetings or demonstrations, or to maintain the flow of traffic.

Allegedly, an affair that occurred about a month ago indicates that there is no ban on demonstrations. Provocations by far-right activists in Malmö, which, among other things, burned Koran books, sparked demonstrations by Muslims that lasted several days and escalated into violent riots. Police have reportedly not tried to enforce Corona restrictions. But the reason was sound judgment, and the demonstrations subsided.

Bottom line: Ohana’s words are true. The Swedish constitution makes it possible to restrict demonstrations in order to fight the plague. Congestion restrictions in Sweden during the Corona days explicitly applied to demonstrations, and police enforced them on several occasions.

Research: Arn Rundel

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