Sweden's capital hit by worst riots in years

STOCKHOLM Wed May 22, 2013 5:50am EDT

1 of 2. Firefighters extinguish a burning car, following riots in the Stockholm suburb of Kista late May 21, 2013, in this picture provided by Scanpix. Sweden's capital has been hit by some of its worst riots in years after youths scorched dozens of cars, attacked a police station and threw stones at rescue services in its poor immigrant suburbs for the third night running.

Credit: Reuters/Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Hundreds of youths have set fire to cars and attacked police and rescue services in poor immigrant suburbs in three nights of rioting in Stockholm, Sweden's worst disorder in years.

On Tuesday night, a police station in the Jakobsberg area in the northwest of the city was attacked, two schools were damaged and an arts and crafts center was set ablaze, despite a call for calm from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The riots in one of Europe's richest capitals have shocked a country that prides itself on a reputation for social justice, and fuelled a debate about how Sweden is coping with both youth unemployment and an influx of immigrants.

"We've had around 30 cars set on fire last night, fires that we connect to youth gangs and criminals," Kjell Lindgren, spokesman for Stockholm police, said on Wednesday.

He said eight people had been arrested on Tuesday night, but there were no reports of injuries.

The riots appear to have been sparked by the police killing of a 69-year-old man wielding a machete in the suburb of Husby this month, which prompted accusations of police brutality.

"Everyone must pitch in to restore calm - parents, adults," Reinfeldt told reporters on Tuesday.

After decades of practicing the "Swedish model" of generous welfare benefits, Sweden has been reducing the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy.

While average living standards are still among the highest in Europe, governments have failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty, which have affected immigrant communities worst.

The left-leaning tabloid Aftonbladet said the riots represented a "gigantic failure" of government policies, which had underpinned the rise of ghettos in the suburbs.

"We have failed to give many of the people in the suburbs a hope for the future," Anna-Margrethe Livh of the opposition Left Party wrote in the daily Svenska Dagbladet.

An anti-immigrant party, the Sweden Democrats, has risen to third in polls ahead of a general election due next year, reflecting unease about immigrants among many voters.

Some 15 percent of the population is foreign-born, the highest proportion in the Nordic region. Unemployment among those born outside Sweden stands at 16 percent, compared with 6 percent for native Swedes, according to OECD data.

Among 44 industrialized countries, Sweden ranked fourth in the absolute number of asylum seekers, and second relative to its population, according to U.N. figures.

(Additional reporting by Simon Johnson and Niklas Pollard; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (14)
COindependent wrote:
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Tuesday commented on the matter, urging a halt to the violence, but acknowledged in the short term that may be unlikely.“We have groups of young men who think that that they can and should change society with violence. Let’s be clear: This is not okay. We cannot be ruled by violence,” Reinfeldt said as cited by the Local.

“Husby residents must get their neighborhood back,” Reinfeldt stressed, speaking of the district, where around 80 percent of about 11,000 residents are first- or second-generation immigrants.“This is a clear consequence of this multiculturalism politics that Sweden adopted around ‘80s and increased in the ‘90s… And this is not a unique one single occasion… we have had these ethnic-based riots against Swedish authorities. We have seen this in Western Europe, that is very sad, and I think we will see more of this, if we don’t change the politics,” the chairman of the Sweden’s National Democrats Party Marc Abramsson told RT.

While not elaborating on the incident that caused the current riots, Abramsson said all such incidents have a common “problem beneath” – that is, the immigrants not identifying themselves with the country’s society, nor accepting the country’s authorities, sticking only to their own ethnic group.

“Sweden has been trying harder than any of the countries in Europe to try to push for integration. We have invested virtually billions from taxpayers’ money into it, we have tried everything that the scientists have presented – and still it’s not working,” the politician argued.

“They live in their area, and they feel the area is their own. And when the police arrive, they feel they are you intruding into their, sort of, ‘country.’ The police… who work in these areas, there have to be in two cars, one protecting the other. People are trying to maintain buildings, to have security guards, the fire department can’t work, they get attacked by angry immigrant youth that feel like they’re intruding into their own area, even though they’re trying to help,” Abramsson went on to say.

May 22, 2013 9:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Paulo2go wrote:
That this is happening in Sweden is clearly a foretaste of what is to come across the entire West. It’s nothing to do with immigration (a sideshow for racism), and everything to do with governments under the control of rapacious corporations failing to provide enough young people with jobs, prospects and hope for the future.

As Sweden starts to dismantle its protection of citizens’ rights to social justice, so it will see an increase in social breakdown, alongside the usual scapegoating of “foreigners” as the problem. The problem is capitalist greed. This greed will never be controlled, as it serves politicians’ bank balances to join in the austerity frenzy.

May 22, 2013 9:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ShovelyJoe wrote:
Great. So the country took them/their parents/their families in and this is how they repay that. That will definitely make people think twice before take in more immigrants. Great move guys! LOL

May 22, 2013 10:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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