Thousands of Swedes rally against racism

STOCKHOLM Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:41am EST

1 of 3. Protesters rally against racism during a demonstration in the Stockholm suburb of Karrtorp December 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Thousands of Swedes took to the streets of Stockholm on Sunday in a protest against racism following a neo-Nazi attack on a similar but much smaller rally last weekend, police said.

The protest followed events last weekend when around 30 neo-Nazis attacked another anti-racism rally in the same suburb, Karrtorp, throwing bottles and firecrackers at protesters. Two people were stabbed and 26 neo-Nazis were detained by police.

Sweden, long seen as a bastion of tolerance, has seen a rise in support for the far right as immigration has grown. Anti-immigration party Sweden Democrats has reached around 10 percent in the polls ahead of a parliamentary election next year.

Stockholm was hit by the worst riots in years in May in mainly poor immigrant Stockholm suburbs, with youths throwing rocks at police and setting cars on fire for more than a week.

The violence in one of Europe's richest capitals shocked a country that prides itself on a reputation for social justice, and fuelled a debate about how Sweden was coping with youth unemployment and the influx of immigrants.

The organizers of Sunday's demonstration estimated more than 16,000 people took part. The crowd chanted "End racism now" and "No racists on our streets", and prominent Swedish artists played on a stage set up on a soccer field.

Parts of Karrtorp, which does not have a particularly large migrant population compared to other areas of the city, were sprayed-painted with swastikas and Nazi slogans before last week's protest.

Smaller anti-racism rallies were held in support at several other Swedish cities on Saturday and Sunday.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Alison Williams)

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