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Eurovision acts perform as protesters shout at fans coming into arena

Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil of Ukraine (Martin Meissner/AP)
Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil of Ukraine (Martin Meissner/AP)

The Eurovision Song Contest has kicked off in Malmo, Sweden, as fans were shouted at by pro-Palestinian protesters going into the venue.

The demonstrators, who are calling for a boycott of the competition due to the participation of Israel’s Eden Golan, were on both sides of entrants queuing to go into the Malmo Arena on Saturday.

Several protesters have also been detained and taken away by police.

They called out “free Palestine” and “shame” to those attending ahead of Golan and Ireland’s Bambie Thug and the UK’s Olly Alexander performing alongside 22 other countries.

Golan received boos and cheers from the crowd during the grand final.

Taking to the stage were Sweden’s contestants Marcus & Martinus, who opened the contest with Unforgettable, before Ukraine’s Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil sang their religious themed Teresa & Maria prior to Germany’s Isaak delivering an emotional performance of Always On The Run.

Several contestants appeared to reference conflicts throughout the world, with Lithuania’s Silvester Belt telling the audience to “spread love to the world”, while Bambie declared “love will always triumph hate”.

At the end of Portugal’s Iolanda singing Grito, she told the crowd: “Peace will prevail”.

The Netherlands’ entry Joost Klein, was disqualified following a “threatening movement” from the singer towards a camerawoman, a Dutch radio and television broadcaster said.

A statement on X from the Netherlands’ Songfestival, which sends acts to the Eurovision Song Contest, added that AVROTROS, the Dutch radio and television broadcaster, found Klein’s “penalty very heavy and disproportionate”, adding that it was “very disappointed”.

On X, formerly Twitter, the statement said: “An incident occurred after last Thursday’s performance. Against clearly made agreements, Joost was filmed when he had just gotten off stage and had to rush to the green room.

“At that moment, Joost repeatedly indicated that he did not want to be filmed. This wasn’t respected.

“This led to a threatening movement from Joost towards the camera. Joost did not touch the camerawoman. This incident was reported, followed by an investigation by the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) and police”.

The statement said they had “consulted extensively with the EBU and proposed several solutions”, but that “nevertheless, the EBU has still decided to disqualify Joost Klein”.

It added that AVROTROS “finds the penalty very heavy and disproportionate”, saying they “stand for good manners – let there be no misunderstanding about that – but in our view, an exclusion order is not proportional to this incident”.

The statement ended saying: “We are very disappointed and upset for the millions of fans who were so excited for tonight. What Joost brought to the Netherlands and Europe shouldn’t have ended this way.”

Sweden Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final
Joost Klein at a press conference (Jessica Gow/AP)

Singer and rapper Klein, 26, entered with the song Europapa, which is a tribute to his late parents.

He was disqualified from Saturday night’s grand final following a Swedish police investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The EBU said police were investigating a complaint made by a female member of the production crew after an incident following his performance in Thursday night’s semi-final.

“While the legal process takes its course, it would not be appropriate for him to continue in the contest,” it said in a statement.

“We would like to make it clear that, contrary to some media reports and social media speculation, this incident did not involve any other performer or delegation member.

“We maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate behaviour at our event and are committed to providing a safe and secure working environment for all staff at the contest.

“In light of this, Joost Klein’s behaviour towards a team member is deemed in breach of contest rules.”

A follow-up statement said Dutch viewers would still be allowed to vote in the grand final and added that the Dutch jury result is still valid.

The EBU also said that it will inform all telecommunications partners that the Netherlands is no longer taking part and will endeavour to block the lines for song number five, which was Klein’s performance slot.

This year’s contest has faced multiple calls to boycott the competition over Israel’s participation and the week has seen protests in the centre of Malmo, the host city.

During the dress rehearsals, Palestinian flags – which had been banned by the organisers the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – had been seen in the audience.

Also during the show, French contestant Slimane stopped singing his entry Mon Amour to call for peace amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Sweden Eurovision Song Contest
Joost Klein on stage (Martin Meissner/AP)

Meanwhile, Alessandra Mele withdrew from being Norway’s points spokesperson and said in an Instagram video that Eurovision’s motto – united by music – were “empty words”.

The broadcasting company NRK has said TV presenter Ingvild Helljesen will announce the jury votes from Norway instead.

Kaarija, the jury spokesperson for Finland, and last year’s runner-up, also announced online that he had stepped down from his role as it “does not feel right”.

Ahead of the grand final, Bambie accused the Israeli broadcaster of a rule break and said they are waiting on an official update from the EBU after raising “multiple complaints”.

It comes after the singer missed their dress rehearsal as they felt they needed to bring a situation to the “urgent attention” of the EBU.

In a post to X Irish singer Cmat said they would not be watching the final and encouraged others to follow suit.

Live online videos show a police presence in Malmo as protestors with Palestinian flags take to the city streets.

Croatia’s Baby Lasagna, real name Marko Purisic, has been tipped as a favourite to win the content, with the song Rim Tim Tagi Dim.

The EBU has been approached for comment.