Swedish City Blocks Plan to Honor Woman Who Struck neo-Nazis With Purse

Vaxjo's city council nixes statue inspired by iconic photograph fearing it might 'promote violence.'

Swedes have started what looks like a rather unusual protest - leaving handbags on statues all over the country. But the story behind it is a fascinating story of a woman, from the city of Växjö in Sweden, who had her great moment of fame when she used her handbag to attack Neo-Nazis marching there 30 years ago.

A picture of Danuta Danielsson hitting a Swedish skinhead made the papers all over the world - and is still a popular Internet meme. However, the handbag protests started in Sweden this past month, after the Växjö city council's culture committee voted to block a statue honoring Danielsson, because it "might promote violence," reported the Swedish edition of The Local. In response, other cities have offered to put up the full -size statue of Danielsson swinging her bag, and an Internet petition to convince the city council to reverse itself has racked up some 10,000 signatures.

Danielsson, who was Jewish and whose mother was in a concentration camp during the Holocaust the Swedish press reported at the time, died a few years after the famous picture was taken by Hans Runesson. The marchers were supporters of Sweden's Nordic Reich Party. Danielsson always refused to speak about herself or the incident. Växjö, a town of almost 70,000 people, is about 450 kilometers northeast of Stockholm.

The debate in Sweden over the statue seemed to revolve around whether such violence is ever justified, in light of the recent terrorist killings in Copenhagen and Paris. The Washington Post quoted city councilor Eva Johansson: "We in Växjö work for democracy and free speech. Of course, we don't like Nazis."

"But we can't accept that one can hit a person because one does not like him or her. Furthermore, a close relative has called us and has said he does not want Danielsson to be remembered that way," Johansson told the Post.