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Tess Asplund, an anti-racism activist from Stockholm, was in Borlänge to protest against a march by hundreds of neo-Nazis through the centre of the town on May 1st.
Traditionally a left-wing stronghold, where big Labour Day rallies are the norm, Borlänge has recently seen many voters lurch to the far-right.
The uniformed neo-Nazis were however far outnumbered by counter demonstrators like Asplund, who described the moment captured on camera to local radio station P4 Dalarna.
“I don’t think I even thought about it really, I just jumped out,” she said.
“I just thought: you shouldn’t be here. Then one of them stared at me and I stared back. He didn’t say anything and neither did I. Then the police came fairly quickly and took me away.”
Asplund said she often raised her fist at anti-fascist rallies in a gesture borrowed from Nelson Mandela.
The picture spread rapidly on social media on Tuesday as Swedes hailed the iconography of a lone woman bravely standing up to dark forces.
The picture was taken by David Lagerlöf, a photographer for Expo, an anti-racism group co-founded in 1995 by Millennium author Stieg Larsson.
Lagerlöf explained what he saw:
“These are the [Nordic Resistance Movement’s] leadership figures slowly walking towards her, and it looks like hers and the leader’s eyes meet, that they are staring at each other,” he told the TT newswire.
“When they are quite close to each other the police come along and push her away.”
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Social media users are already calling the shot the photo of the year, with many comparing it to an image often referred to as ‘The old lady with the bag’.
Hans Runesson’s classic photo from 1985 depicts a woman in Växjö, southern Sweden, wielding a handbag as a weapon against a neo-Nazi demonstrator.
“I really don’t want to go that far, that picture is really iconic,” said Lagerlöf.