Riots gripped Stockholm’s suburbs for a third
night after the fatal shooting of a 69-year-old man by police last
week. Much of the tension has been attributed to the alleged poor
treatment of ethnic minorities in Sweden's biggest city. Photo: Johannes
Ledel/The Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Cars and buildings were smoldering early Wednesday after a
third-straight night of rioting around Sweden's capital, in what has
become the country's worst outbreak of civil unrest in years.
Eight people were arrested overnight, bringing the total since the
violence began Sunday to 15, said Kjell Lindgren, press officer at the
Swedish Police. He said at least five people were being held on charges,
and that more arrests were likely after video shot at the scene was
reviewed.Disturbances were reported in six areas as the violence spread around Stockholm. More than a dozen people torched cars, set a couple of buildings on fire and smashed windows at a police station in the Jakobsberg area, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of the city center.
Police characterized the night as calmer, however, saying there were fewer instances of rioters throwing rocks at police and firefighters. No serious injuries were reported.
Nevertheless, one man was hurt by a rock thrown into a crowd at a peaceful demonstration Wednesday afternoon, and police said they were preparing for more protests.
Demonstrators and community activists have attributed the rioting to anger over the May 13 fatal shooting by police of a 69-year-old man who police said had been brandishing a large knife or machete.
The man was shot inside his apartment in Husby, a poor suburb of about 11,000 people, mostly immigrants and refugees from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Somalia. Police didn't release his name or nationality.
Swedish police say they have launched an internal investigation into the case. But some demonstrators and local residents said they are frustrated at seeing police use what they consider to be excessive force in the deprived suburbs with seeming impunity.
"If police had shot someone in the city, they wouldn't have gotten away this easily," said one young Husby resident who declined to give his real name.
Another Husby resident said Tuesday night that while the shooting last week may have been a catalyst, tension had been building in the poor communities outside the capital for a long time.
Though small in scale, riots have erupted outside Swedish cities periodically in recent years, with tension between police and youths.
Megafonen, a community group that represents the interests of minorities in the Stockholm area, has lodged multiple complaints about substandard schools, unemployment and "structural racism."
Locals spoke of frustration over the lack of jobs—Husby has among the highest rates of youth unemployment—people neither working nor studying—in Sweden, at about 20%. Costs of living are also rising as the need to renovate the aging housing projects has driven up rents.
Akar Karim, 22 years old, who works as a student assistant at a nearby school, also stressed that after school, a lot of young people have little to do.
"They do nothing, just sit around on benches", he said. Many local parents don't have the money to enable their kids to partake in the kind of activities other Swedish youths do.
On Tuesday, Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that he was confident that Husby residents would be able to work through the tension. But he warned that more rioting may take place before the situation settled down.
Some residents predicted an increase in violence Wednesday night as some youth believe police will have their resources spread thin because of a soccer game at a nearby stadium.
Although there have been many arrests and property has been damaged, no fatalities have been reported in relation to the rioting.