“Move along there’s nothing to see here”, I heard the police officer on horseback say earlier today. In all my life, I don’t think I’d never heard a police officer say the phrase before. I thought it was just a line from The Simpsons. This time around, there was no one-second translation delay going on in my head, as I knew immediately what she was saying.
It was just after lunch, and I’d been walking along Götgatan (the main drag on Södermalm) looking in the shop windows. The weather was spectacular: easily the warmest, clearest day I’ve experienced on this trip to Stockholm. The heavy winter clothing had been replaced by lighter spring clothing, and people were everywhere.
When I saw the large crowds ahead of me and a bit of noise, I immediately though there was some kind of festival going on. Tonight, after all is Kulturnatt in Stockholm, the night when many of the arts organisations are open until midnight with free entry.
As I walked closer I realised there was some kind of protest going on. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t recognise the flag being carried by the protesters. Instantly though, I knew something was awry. Individuals were being chased by police and held down. I saw someone supporting the protesters throw something at one of the horses. I noticed the horses had eye protection to deal with exactly that kind of thing.
Later, in the city I saw another protest underway at Sergel’s Torg, the main square near T-centralen. I’m not exactly sure what this protest was about either, though I noticed a few signs which mentioned asbestos, and other signs opposing nuclear power. I stood for a while and listened to the speeches. Although the Swedish was far more complicated than I understand, the tone of those speaking didn’t feel all that disimilar to speeches I’ve heard before.
Elsewhere, cafes and bars were full. The same with public transport. So crowded, in fact, that I chose not to get on one tram. “There’ll be another one soon, with half the number of people on board”, I thought to myself, and indeed there was.
Sandra had told me what a great time this was to be in Stockholm. “It’s after the winter, but before everyone disappears for the summer that Stockholm really comes to life”, she told me. She’s absolutely right. There’s a real buzz in the air, and it’s great to be here right now.
Tonight I’m heading out to experience a lttle of Kulturnatt.