Let’s all hold hands and sing ‘We Shall Overcome’

A story about Sweden, racism and lasers

In an online debate at work I recently wrote “let’s all hold hands and sing ‘We Shall Overcome’” without thinking about how it refers to a truly bizarre and scary event. Here’s the story about what that line refers to.


Once upon a time (early 1990s) in Stockholm a man was shooting at people he thought were non-european immigrants. He used a laser beam to aim his gun, which gave him the nickname lasermannen (the laser man).

Later, a book was written about lasermannen and in the book you can read about why he shot all of these people. Lasermannen spent an enormous amount of money gambling at German casinos (he had an idea he could beat the system somehow). His way to afford all of the gambling was to rob banks. He thought that robbing banks was wrong, so he needed to do something good to compensate. His political beliefs told him that immigration was wrong, so he decided to shoot at immigrants to calm his conscience.

At this point in time a lot of people in Stockholm was angry and frightened. A meeting was setup in a Stockholm suburb where a few politicians met with civil rights protesters. Our Prime Minister at the time (Carl Bildt) was there and so was the Minister for Culture and Immigration (Birgit Friggebo). It was broadcasted on national television. After a while the debate got heated, some of the protesters didn’t think that the politicians had done enough and now they felt that the politicians didn’t listen to them.

At that moment Birgit took over the mic and asked all participants to “hold hands and sing ‘We shall overcome’”.

As one can imagine, that didn’t go very well with the crowd who instead got even more angry and upset.

So that’s the story behind the phrase “let’s hold hands and sing ‘We Shall Overcome’”. As for lasermannen, he got caught later in 1992 and has since spent his time in Swedish prison.

Here’s a video of the event:

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