Just north of Lund, on what was once the verge of the old highway, lies a large stone slab. If you are on the bike-way, you will see that “You can never kill the resistance” is written on it in bold letters. There is a story behind the stone, but to understand it, you need to know some local history.
Skåne has seen a lot of popular uprisings, from the pro-Danish Snapphane rebellions of the 1600s to the workers’ movements of the C20th. The civil disobedience movements that formed to incite radical climate policy in the first half of the C21st are the latest addition to this lineage. Their members had grown frustrated by the delay and denial that followed in the wake of calls for reform. In their eyes, the solutions to climate change were clear and implementable—there was just a lack of political will.
All around the world, activists gathered around simple but clear asks like “restore wetlands”, “stop oil”, and “insulate homes”. They spread their message by occupying squares, blocking highways, and interrupting sports events. They were hugely unpopular with large swaths of the public—but they did get attention!
Given what has happened in the years since, demands for wetland restoration do not seem particularly controversial. But in the 2020s, such demands—brought to attention through the disruption of fosiil-fuel based infrastructures and systems—were met with anger and violence.
This brings us to the E22 incident. On October 15th, 2023, construction was set to start on a controversial highway expansion at the northern edge of the university city of Lund. There had been resistance for years, pointing out that high ambitions for climate change mitigation and new highways were incompatible. In a final effort to halt the construction, members of the Restore Wetlands movement blocked the entire E22 highway in both directions. Long lines quickly built up, and the police rushed to the scene.
However, some motorists—later revealed to be habitues of radical nationalist internet forums—decided to take matters into their own hands. First, they beat the protestors with tire irons. As the activists were glued to the highway, there wasn’t much they could do but endure it, but the motorists—blinded by rage, in the words of their defence lawyers—failed to recognize this fact. They started accelerating their cars towards the protestors, stopping just before collision. Still, the activists did not move. As the police sirens drew ever closer, a large SUV revved its engine and set off toward the activists—and this time, he didn’t brake.
By the time the ambulances arrived, it was already too late: three protestors were dead. In the days that followed, all major highways in Sweden were occupied. There was gridlock in negotiations for weeks, but in the face of a vast public outcry, the newly-installed right-wing government grudgingly mandated compulsory wetland restoration on land not essential for food production. The results can clearly be seen in Skåne today.
The gravestone was raised shortly after this decision. Every year, on October 15th, the surviving activists bike here to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. The event is informal and public, but it is advised that visitors be respectful of the solemnity of the occasion.