A provocative stunt by a far-right Danish political party has stirred a growing international backlash.
Members of the Party of the Danes in the port town of Haderslev distributed dozens of aerosol spray cans to passersby. They were labeled “anti-migrant spray,” aimed at equipping local Danes against the threat of assault from immigrants and asylum seekers.
The purse-size can came with a label that translates as “Refugee Spray,” both “legal” and “effective.” The move immediately drew critics.
Izza Leghtas, a senior advocate for Europe at Refugees International, described the gag to CNN as “an appalling act of hostility and xenophobia towards asylum-seekers and refugees.” She went on: “People who have fled to Europe to escape from war and violence should find the protection they need, and be treated with respect like any other human being. Yet too often, they find closed doors and prejudice. This is the latest, extreme example of that.”
The Party of the Danes defended its stunt in Haderslev. “I cannot see how it is racist,” party leader Daniel Carlsen told CNN. “Pepper spray is illegal here so we wanted to figure out a way for Danish people, in particular women, to protect themselves. It’s obviously not the ideal situation.”
While the party is relatively fringe and linked with neo-Nazism, its fellow travelers include more prominent, legitimate organizations, such as the Danish People’s Party. From obscurity in the 1990s, the xenophobic DPP has risen to command a significant chunk of seats in Denmark’s Parliament, winning some 21 percent of the vote in elections last year. Denmark’s coalition government has been accused of taking a hard line on migrants, and was widely criticized for a plan to seize the assets and valuables of incoming refugees.
Like the attitudes of far-right populists elsewhere, security fears in Denmark about an influx of migrants are often built on a more abhorrent reservoir of racial hostility.