Police downplay concerns about right-wing rally
A demonstration by far-right and anti-Islamic activists in Aarhus tomorrow has lead the US Embassy to urge its citizens to steer well clear of the city.
The demonstration is organised by the British organisation the English Defence League (EDL) and is intended to be the first pan-European meeting of sympathising and copycat groups such as the Danish Defence League and Stop Islamisation of Europe.
”EDL events have a history of violence, and clashes with police and counter-demonstrators are common,” the embassy stated in a press release. “The Danish police have plans to deploy a substantial force of officers to control the situation. The US Embassy advises all US citizens to avoid the vicinity of these events. If you find yourself near one of these demonstrations, please exercise caution and leave the area as soon as possible.”
While police admit they have made preparations for tomorrow's demonstrations, Bent Preben Nielsen, from the East Jutland Police, said the embassy’s statement was “very unfortunate and way out of proportion”.
Nielsen added that there is no indication that trouble will flare and that statements like those from the embassy could do more harm than good.
“They make it almost sound like terrorism and tha could cause the tension between the parties to escalate, which would be very unfortunate.”
According to Århus Stiftstidende newspaper, Nielsen has invited foreign police forces to assist in forming a plan for handling tomorrow’s demonstration. It is thought that members of foreign police forces will be on the ground in Aarhus to assist in the surveillance of protestors and offer other types of assistance similar to when football fans travel abroad
EDL rallies have a history of violence. Members of the organisation are known to be drawn from the British football hooligan community while counter-protest groups, such as the British organisation Unite Against Fascism are also known for resorting to violent confrontations.
Domestic intelligence agency PET stated that the meeting in Aarhus was an opportunity for right-wing groups across Europe to network and added that it could attract groups that are known for being violent.
“We are especially concerned by the involvement of central and eastern European right-wing radicals at the demonstration in Aarhus,” PET chief Jacob Scharf told Århus Stiftstidende. “The movement is relatively popular in these countries and has a high capacity for violence.”
On the Facebook page, Aarhus Counter-Jihad Meeting, organisers of the event stated that the meeting in Aarhus was to create “open, clear and transparent event which will enable members of the public to come along and listen to speeches being given by various personalities from the counter-jihad movements across Europe”.
The statement continued: “The aim of the event is to help raise awareness of the increasing problems caused by the Islamification of European Countries. Topics include Sharia Law and Immigration as well as Human Rights issues regarding freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
While the Aarhus Counter-Jihad Meeting will be taking place in Mølleparken, just a few hundred metres away pro-diversity group Aarhus for Mangfoldighed will be holding a demonstration of its own.
While police say about 500 people are expected at the EDL rally, almost 4,000 have responded on Facebook that they will attend the Aarhus for Mangfoldighed event.
“Right extremist groups are mainly formed in times of crisis to prevent people from standing together. They propagate racist stereotypes, and assault and hate crimes follow in their wake,” the organisers wrote on the Facebook event site. “Every one of us in Aarhus must reject the extreme right-wing forces and make it clear that these attitudes are not welcome in our city!
Our reporter, Peter Stanners, will be in Aarhus tomorrow to cover the demonstrations and will be writing live updates on Twitter. Follow his profile to stay updated. @PeterStanners