Black Woman, Tess Asplund, Stands Up to 300 Neo-Nazis, Says She Was Influenced by Nelson Mandela

By Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno
May 6, 2016 Updated: May 6, 2016

The photograph of a black woman standing up to neo-Nazis in Sweden on May 1 has gone viral, and she hopes her act will bring attention to the fight against racism.

Tess Asplund tried to block the path of the Nordic Resistance Movement as the right-wing extremist group marched into the town of Borlange.

Asplund, said her gesture was inspired by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, who fought against racial discrimination.

“I felt when they arrived that they shouldn’t be here and spread their hate,” Asplund told Swedish Radio. “I don’t think I was even thinking. I just jumped out. Things happened quite quickly. Then a police officer pulled me away.”

A video shows Asplund standing up to the group and walking backwards. The footage by Dala-Demokraten newspaper shows a neo-Nazi pushing Asplund, while another counter-demonstrator is pushed out of the path of the parade.

The photograph showing Asplund, 42, face to face with neo-Nazis raising her clenched fist, went viral on social media platforms. The writer of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling responded to the image on Twitter calling Asplund “magnificent.”

Asplund said she was shocked by the attention she has received through the photo.

“I have fought against racism for 26 years. I am 42 now. And if this is a thing that makes people pay attention to the fight against racism and xenophobia, then that’s very good,” Asplund told Swedish Radio.

“But I don’t want people to see me as a symbol. There were a lot of others who were there against the racists in Borlange.”

The photographer who took the photo of Asplund, David Lagerlof, said he was getting ready to take photos of the approaching march when Asplund all of the sudden walked out into the middle of the street.

“I thought, ‘how is this going to end?’ She got out there and stared into the eyes of the leader of the demonstration,” Lagerlof told The Associated Press.

“They continued going forward, stone-faced.”

Expo, a Swedish anti-racism organization, published his photo on its website, and Lagerlof also posted it on social media, and it soon went viral.

Swedish security service SAPO describes the neo-Nazi group that was marching as a white supremacist group with a strict hierarchy and military influences. Some members of the Nordic Resistance Movement have been convicted of violent crimes including manslaughter, assault, and attempted murder.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.