Thousands of protesters demonstrated in Sweden’s two largest cities on Saturday against the use of vaccine passes, in marches that developed calmly after the police warned of possible clashes.
The Sapo security police had expressed concern that neo-Nazi groups and opponents could meet at the demonstration in Stockholm.
Around 9,000 people marched through the streets of the capital Stockholm to Sergels Torg and chanted “No to vaccine passes, yes to freedom”, in a protest organized by a group called the Freedom Movement.
One of the protesters, 30-year-old Julia Johansson, said that vaccine passes “discriminate against many people”.
– We must be able to decide for ourselves what we want to do with our own bodies, she tells AFP.
Aida Begovic, 35, agreed, saying they “force people to have medical procedures they do not want.”
“No matter how much you say that (vaccination) is not a requirement, it is if you lose rights in society over it.”
The Scandinavian country introduced vaccine passports on 1 December.
They have been mandatory since January 12 for indoor events with more than 50 people, as the country is battling an unprecedented increase in infections with about 40,000 cases reported per day over the past week.
More than 83 percent of Swedes over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.
Some of the protesters wore markings of violent extremist groups such as the neo-Nazi group NMR, and covered their faces to prevent identification.
Some also set off red flares that glowed the sky a smoky red, but police said no clashes were reported.
A number of vaccination centers in the city had closed early on Saturday as a precautionary measure.
In Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg, another demonstration gathered around 1,500 people.
Sweden made headlines in the early days of the pandemic when, unlike most other countries, it did not introduce any form of closure or school closure.
Instead, it adopted a softer approach and recommended social distancing, homework and only limited use of face masks.
However, it banned visits to nursing homes, restricted public gatherings and limited opening hours in bars and restaurants.
Sweden’s death toll – about 15,600 of the population of 10.3 million – is around the European average, but is significantly higher than in neighboring countries Norway, Finland and Denmark.
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