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Umeå May Day March, During Pandemic, Traverses World of Warcraft

  • Originally a Left Party April Fool’s joke, thousands gather in fantasy realm to commemorate holiday
  • Umeå Social Democratic leader Hans Lindberg calls for “a stronger community” in May Day speech
  • Umeå Police say Valborg partiers (mostly) followed social distancing laws
  • Popular Vännäs handicrafts store Slöjdornas hus closes due to pandemic
  • Applications open for local sports clubs to get government financial support
  • Supermarket plastic bag price goes up today

ÅLIDHEM – Umeå’s Left and Social Democratic parties both found ways to commemorate May Day today, without organizing a large in-person gathering, now illegal under national coronavirus hygiene laws. Between the two parties, the more unusual approach was perhaps the Left’s: a march though a desert in the World of Warcraft, the planet’s most popular online role playing game. The march was organized at the Left Party’s offices in City Hall.

Originally an April Fool’s joke started by the Umeå branch of the national Left Party, news of the World of Warcraft May Day march spread in gaming forums across Sweden over the past week. Then, national Left Party leaders decided they would address the online crowd. So, this afternoon, thousands of people from all over the country, represented by fantasy characters of all types — goblins, dragons, elves — showed up at the desert location known as Durotar. They stomped — sometimes circuitously — from the Valley of Trials to Ogrimmar, World of Warcraft’s capital city for orcs.

A screen capture of the Umeå Left Party’s World of Warcraft May Day march. -World of Warcraft

After arriving at Ogrimmar, participants could read text-versions of speeches by a number of Left Party leaders, including national chair Jonas Sjöstedt. Before the march, he told Dagens Nyheter, “I have no idea what I’m getting into, but I notice that interest is increasing in the virtual march, both among our supporters and opponents.”

While most of the marchers took fantastical names — consistent with World of Warcraft’s idiom — a few were political, such as Steflöv (a shortening of the name of Prime Minister Stefan Lövfen) and Jimmeåkesson the Patient, a reference to the country’s controversial leader of the nationalist-social conservative Sweden Democrats.

Click to view a video walk, among World of Warcraft May Day 2020 marchers, ending with an encounter with Jimmeåkesson the Patient:

Along the way, marchers offered text commentary from all sides of the political spectrum, suggesting that not all the participants were sympathetic to the Left Party’s socialist platform and historical Communist roots. “Communism lead to 94 million deaths”, wrote one marcher, while another proffered that “capitalism and socialism are two sides of the same coin.”

“Long live Sossesverige!” exclaimed another, using the sometimes-ironic term referring to a Sweden run by Social Democrats, the party which has maintained national power most frequently since World War II.

After the march, its initiator and Left Party Political Secretary Andreas Sellstedt (character name Rödbjörk, “Red birch”) told Umeå Today: “We are overwhelmed and over the moon about the turnout. There was no way we could have anticipated this huge response to what started out as a joke.”

A shot of a Social Democratic video of an Umeå resident describing his understanding of a “stronger community” -Umeå Socialdemokraterna

Umeå’s Social Democrats, meanwhile, whose leader Municipal Executive Committee Chair Hans Lindberg holds the city’s highest political office, took a more traditional approach toward the holiday. He posted a short speech, delivered in front of the old city hall, on Facebook, entitled A Stronger Community. It was followed by video clips of Umebor describing what they understood by the term stronger community.

“A stronger community,” said one resident standing in front of the Skin 4 statue of a giant clothes pin near the university arts campus, “for me, means safe care for the elderly, safe health clinics, and secure working conditions.”

Umeå Police said today that during last night’s Valborg holiday celebrations, they were called to Lake Nydala after a report of a group of some 120 young people gathering. This was despite police warnings yesterday against large, publicized Valborg parties. When police arrived at the lake, however, the group had already dispersed, they said. Police representative Barbro Hedman told Sveriges Radio that “the young people understood the importance of social distancing, but occasionally forgot about it.” Otherwise, police did not report any violations of the law against large gatherings last night.

Västerbotten’s coronavirus statistics changed very little in the past day. Four more cases were confirmed in the county, bringing the total to 326. 20 are in the hospital, and 10 in intensive care — one fewer than yesterday. No deaths were reported and the total remains at 15 since the beginning of the pandemic.

A popular day trip destination for Umebor, the local non-profit handicrafts store and restaurant Slöjdornas hus in Vännäs, announced today that it is closing for the summer due to lack of visitors during the pandemic. Chair Olov Fällefors told Västerbottens-Kuriren that “there is no other choice. Many of the visitors are older people.”

Slöjdornas hus said that it will now focus on expanding its annual harvest, Halloween, and Christmas markets.

Applications open today for sports organizations in Västerbotten who need financial help during the coronavirus crisis. The money is being made available by the local branch of Sweden’s national sports federation, RF-SISU. The government has set aside some 500 million SEK in support across the country. Applications are made on the federation’s website.

Finally, the minimum price of plastic bags in supermarkets increases today to 6 SEK, as part of an EU-wide ecological measure. Stores can still legally charge whatever price they like above that. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency encourages shoppers, in any case, to use cloth or recyclable bags rather than disposable plastic ones.

Correction: the original version of this article said that the World of Warcraft march was organized at the Left Party’s headquarters in Berghem. In fact, it was at their City Hall offices.

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