Greta Thunberg joins pro-Palestinian protests ahead of second Eurovision semi-final

Swedish authorities have heightened security in Malmo as Israeli contestant Eden Golan will participate in the contest

By Reuters

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Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in the Stop Israel demonstration against Israel's participation in the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Malmo, Sweden. — Photo: Reuters
Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in the Stop Israel demonstration against Israel's participation in the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Malmo, Sweden. — Photo: Reuters

Published: Thu 9 May 2024, 7:05 PM

Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Eurovision 2024 host city Malmo on Thursday to protest Israel's participation in the song contest ahead of this year's second semi-final.

Some 100,000 visitors have gathered in the southern Swedish city for the annual kitsch-fest, which is taking place amid protests and boycotts over the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.


"Young people are leading the way and showing the world how we should react to this," Thunberg, 21, said, wrapped in a keffiyeh, the traditional scarf that has become a symbol for Palestinian resistance.

Metal barricades and large concrete blocks have been put up around Malmo Arena, which is hosting the competition.


Police are guarding the venue and visitors need to pass through metal detectors before entering the arena. Bags are being checked and visitors are only allowed to bring in small purses.

Israeli contestant Eden Golan, 20, will perform her song "Hurricane" in the second semi-final later on Thursday.

A large crowd of protesters gathered on Malmo's central square Stortorget, some 7 kilometres from the competition venue, waiving Palestinian flags and shouting "boycott Israel".

Swedish authorities have heightened security and are bracing for possible unrest, and there was a significant police presence in the square, live footage showed.

Protester Kasia Wiatrowska, from Malmo, wore a green T-shirt with the words "Libre Palestine" on the back.

"I do like Eurovision," Wiatrowska said. "We all love music. But this year music is dividing people, and I don’t like that," she added.

Police estimate that about 5,000 people attended the demonstration.

"Overall, it's calm, we've turned away a few people," a police spokesperson told Reuters.

Another protester, Palestinian Amar, who only gave one name, said: "I'm here today because I see the hypocrisy and double standards around the world."

"We are against what's happening in Gaza right now. But I also want people to understand that we don’t hate Jews," he added.

A pro-Israel demonstration is also scheduled for Thursday at 1600 GMT.

There is high security around the delegations from all the countries, according to Malmo police. "We're keeping a bit of an extra eye on Israel of course, because of the situation," Lotta Svensson, a police incident commander, told Reuters on Sunday.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the event, has resisted calls for Israel to be excluded but asked the country to modify the lyrics of its original song "October Rain", which appeared to reference the Hamas attack.

Israeli contestant Golan says she hopes her performance will help to unite people.

"It's a super important moment for us, especially this year," she told Reuters in an interview this week. "I feel honoured to have the opportunity to be the voice of my country."

Thursday's semi-final is due to begin at 1900 GMT and will also feature contestants from Malta, Albania, Greece, the Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Armenia, Latvia, San Marino, Georgia, Belgium, Estonia and Norway.

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