On Friday the 4th of October, populist leaders from around the world gathered at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm to celebrate their deep-seated dislike of the EU and immigration together.
The gala was hosted by the right-wing populist party Sweden Democrats (SD) and the British UKIP, and about 400 EU-critics and anti-immigration leaders showed up for the event – among them UKIP's former party leader Nigel Farage, Mischaël Modrikamen from the Belgian People's Party, Lithuania's former president Rolandas Paksas and Petr Mach from the Czech Free Citizens' Party.
There were two main objectives to the bash. One was to sign The Stockholm Declaration – a contract that symbolises direct democracy, drafted by the newly established Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, ADDE. ADDE is a union between independent euro-sceptics and MEP's from anti-immigration parties in Germany, the Netherlands, UK, Lithuania, France, Sweden, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Italy. The other important part of the programme was to award the European Freedom Award – according to SD party leader Jimmie Åkesson an homage to the Nobel Prize – to someone "with meaningful achievements for the political endeavour to reach more national independence, democracy and more influence for citizens of Europe."
The gala began with a press conference at 2:30 PM, with speeches from several populist leaders such as Jimmie Åkesson and Nigel Farage. Most speeches followed the same talking points – the importance of direct democracy, freedom, the removal of centralised leadership, the threat of radical Islam and the dangers of immigration.
Farage held a press conference of his own. I asked him what message he has for the younger generations in Europe. "I would like something perhaps of 1968 to come out again in our young people, where they stand up and fight for democratic control over their own futures," Farage told VICE. "The idea that in the 21st century, modern global economy that Europe can prosper being run by a group of unelected old men in Brussels, who are frankly more protectionist globally than free trade, that is not the future for young people."
In the end, the European Freedom Award was handed to the former president of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus. Klaus blames postmodern society for the July 2011 attack by terrorist Anders Behring Breivik's in Norway, and Breivik quoted Klaus in his manifest. Farage hailed Klaus during the press conference as an "extraordinary bloke", adding, "For me, he's a bit of a hero."
The Grand Hôtel is famous for hosting the biggest stars and richest tourists visiting Stockholm. It hosted the first ever Nobel Prize Banquet in 1901, and since 1968 the Wallenberg family has owned the hotel. Raoul Wallenberg is one of Sweden's most famous freedom fighters. He saved thousands of Jewish people from the holocaust in Hungary during the Second World War.
When people found out that Grand Hôtel was hosting an event for right-wing anti-immigration populists, thousands of protesters took to the hotel's Facebook page, bringing the five star rating of the hotel down to two. The hotel subsequently turned off the option to rate it online.
After calls for a boycott of the hotel, Grand Hôtel apologised and said to regret the decision to host a xenophobic gala. That, in turn, let SD to call for a boycott of the hotel, too.
"If Grand Hotel think they will gain from [stating an apology] financially, they're mistaken," SD's Mattias Karlsson told Aftonbladet. "The organisations that attended the gala are representing tens of millions of people. There were guests attending from the US and Israel, too. [The apology] will obviously have financial consequences."
During the event, about 25 people had gathered with a sound system outside the hotel to dance and – according to organiser Lucien – spread "good tunes and love instead of hatred." Eight police officers were keeping an eye out, but the guests of the European Freedom Awards that came out for a cigarette didn't seem bothered much by the spreading of all that love.
Scroll down for more photos from the protest.