Demonstrations – questions and answers

All citizens have constitutional rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of demonstration.

This means that everyone has the right to express their opinions and participate in public gatherings, such as demonstrations.

What are the duties of the Police in connection with demonstrations?

The role of the Police is to ensure that everyone can express their opinions in accordance with the existing laws and guarantee the practical requirements for demonstrations. The Police are responsible for maintaining public order and security during demonstrations, and must prosecute any crimes committed.

How do the Police work during a demonstration?

The tactics of the Police are based on communication and dialogue during demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. The aim is to facilitate gatherings and create the right conditions for them.

When and why do the Police decide to cordon off an area?

  • To guarantee safety, the Police may decide for tactical reasons to cordon off areas or places.
  • For the same reason, the Police may instruct a crowd of people to follow a certain route.
  • Anyone who breaks down a barrier or chooses not to follow the Police’s instructions may be committing a crime.

Is disrupting or hindering a demonstration a breach of legislation?

Anyone who disrupts a demonstration through a violent act, loud noise or some other way may be guilty of the offence of disturbing a public gathering.

Anyone who disobeys a police officer’s order to stop or move may be reported for the offence of refusing to obey an official command. It is strictly forbidden to hinder the Police from performing their duties.

Are face coverings allowed at demonstrations?

Face coverings are prohibited during demonstrations in the event of public disturbances, such as violent incidents and/or damage or if there is a threat thereof.

While the police will typically inform those participating in the gathering or demonstration that the face covering prohibition has entered into force, the prohibition applies irrespective of whether or not the police has informed them of this fact.

A person who covers their face on religious grounds is not subject to the prohibition, nor are those who have applied to the Swedish Police Authority for permission to cover their face and have had their application approved.

Who is allowed to demonstrate?

All citizens have constitutional rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of demonstration. This means that everyone has the right to express their opinions and participate in public gatherings. Everyone also has the right to organise and participate in demonstrations in public places.

Freedom of expression does not give immunity from criminal liability if a crime is committed when expressing an opinion, for example agitation against a population group or unlawful threats, etc.

Is a demonstration permit necessary?

Yes, as a general rule, a permit is necessary for a demonstration in a public place. For other places that are located in land-use zones, notification must be provided.

When processing the permit, the Police can facilitate the demonstration by agreeing on rules and setting the time and place of the event. This helps to reduce the risk of public disturbances or the risk of the demonstration clashing with other demonstrations or events.

Apply for a demonstration permit

Under the Public Order Act, a demonstration counts as a public gathering.

Apply for a public gathering permit – demonstration

Apply for a public gathering permit – demonstration (in Swedish)

May I participate in counter-demonstrations?

You always have the right to express your opinions, but you may not disrupt another demonstration. Nor may you commit an offence in order to express your opinion, by e.g. tearing down posters or throwing things.

Is a counter-demonstration permit necessary?

Yes, the same rules apply to counter-demonstrations as would apply to other demonstrations.

Can the Police refuse to grant a permit by referring to public order disturbances?

The Police may only refuse a permit for a public gathering if this is necessary in view of public order or safety at the gathering. A public gathering may also be banned if there have been serious public disturbances or a considerable danger for participants at a previous gathering of a similar kind.

The constitutional protection of demonstrations is so strong that banning gatherings in view of the public order situation is very much a last resort. The use of violence due to counter-demonstrations is generally not a reason to ban a public gathering.

Is using pyrotechnics and firecrackers allowed?

All use and handling of pyrotechnics in the context of large public gatherings and various types of events is subject to a permit.

May I put up posters without permission?

Local regulations of each municipality stipulate the rules for putting up posters etc. Anyone is authorised to put up posters at specific locations intended for this purpose. Putting up posters, for instance election posters, in other public places requires a permit.