Party members handed out the aerosol sprays to passersby on the morning of September 24. They claim that 137 people accepted the spray.
A huge wave of criticism followed news of this “anti-migrant spray” campaign, with even the United Nations speaking out against it. However, Daniel Carlsen, the founder of this far-right party, says it wasn’t meant to be a “provocation”. Instead, he justified the use of these cans of hairspray as a “legal weapon” against migrants in Denmark, where pepper spray is illegal.
“At first, I thought it was a joke”
I was on the main shopping street in town. Haderslev isn’t a big city per se but it’s the largest in our region, Southern Denmark [Editor’s note: The town population is around 22,000].
There were four party members handing out the sprays. At first, I didn’t understand what it was all about. I glanced at their posters and I thought that it must be some kind of joke to get people to stop. Then, one of the party members handed me a spray. I asked him what it was and he responded, very seriously, that it was an anti-migrant spray. I was shocked. I felt a deep sense of injustice. I have gotten to know several refugees and some of them have become friends. I can’t stand people judging them in that way.
The party members handing out the sprays were acting like it was totally normal. Other passersby were as shocked as I was and they found the approach really aggressive. But I also saw other people take the spray without looking surprised or shocked at all.
A lot of people took to Twitter to ridicule the “anti-migrant” spray campaign.I don’t think it was an accident that they decided to run the campaign in Haderslev. There’s a camp that houses asylum seekers here [Editor’s note: The camp, which was set up in 2014, is now home to about 140 asylum seekers, according to the Danish Red Cross].
A certain segment of the population has always viewed the camp with suspicion because they think that it creates insecurity. This sentiment has become more widespread since the beginning of 2016 because there have been several reports of Danish women being assaulted and accusing migrants.
These incidents were all over the local media. [Editor’s note: After these incidents, several nightclubs started refusing entry to men who don’t speak Danish, English, or German.] This anti-migrant spray campaign paints foreigners and asylum seekers as people who are more likely than others to be attackers.
“It’s not the first time that this party has run a publicity campaign based on shocking people”
“Compassion” aerosol sprays against “anti-migrant” sprays.
But it is important to point out that a lot of Danes have taken to social media to denounce these sprays. Two people even filmed themselves handing out aerosol sprays meant to promote compassion towards migrants.
This isn’t the first time that this party has run a publicity campaign that shocks people. For example, they were behind a poster campaign on public buses that said “Your child deserves a Danish Denmark”. And during the Euros [the UEFA European football championship], they made fun of the French team by calling it an “African” team.
On Wednesday, September 28, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) denounced the “anti-migrant spray” campaign, though made sure to point out that the Danskernes Parti “only represent a very small fraction of the Danish people”.
However, this campaign is just one example of rising xenophobia in Denmark. In the legislative elections held in June 2015, another anti-immigration party, the Danish People’s Party, arrived second after winning 21 percent of votes.
Meanwhile the Danskernes Parti, which denounces all “non-Western immigration” and wants people of non-European ancestry stripped of their citizenship, remains marginal. In 2013, several people from the party ran in municipal elections but none ended up in the mayor’s seat. On its official website, the party says that it needs to gather 20,130 signatures in order to participate in the next round of legislative elections.
Danskernes Parti leader Daniel Carlsen said that the party had gained close to 700 signatures after handing out the anti-migrant spray. Our team was unable to verify this number. FRANCE 24 tried to reach Carlsen for comment, but he has not responded to our inquiries. If he does, we will include his response in this article.