Hundreds of young people have torched cars and attacked police in three nights of rioting in immigrant suburbs of Sweden's capital, shocking a country that has dodged the worst of the financial crisis but failed to defuse youth unemployment and resentment of asylum seekers.
On Sunday night, 100 vehicles were set alight. There was further unrest on Monday and again on Tuesday when between 50 and 100 people rioted with some 300 on streets protesting across nine districts of the city.
It is unclear what has sparked the unrest but some community sources have linked the trouble to the police shooting of a 69-year-old man after they were called out to a home in the north Stockholm district of Husby where the man was allegedly brandishing a machete.
Police say they tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the man after learning a woman was inside the flat along with him. They then stormed the flat.
Other sources also link the trouble to local alienation – more than 80 per cent of Husby’s 12,000 or so inhabitants are from an immigrant background, and most are from Turkey, the Middle East and Somalia – and high unemployment at 6 per cent, double the national average.
Rami al-Khamisi, a law student and founder of the youth organisation Megafonen, told the Swedish edition of online newspaper The Local that he had been insulted racially by police. Teenagers, he said, had been called "monkeys".
He said the crowd was reacting to a "growing marginalisation and segregation in Sweden over the past 10, 20 years" from both a class and a race perspective.
According to local newspaper Norra Sidan 's editor-in-chief Rouzbeh Djalaie, police in Stockholm reportedly called Husby rioters "monkeys" on Sunday night, with residents already concerned police were spreading disinformation which provided "the spark for social discontent".
"The reason is very simple: unemployment, the housing situation, disrespect from police. There's frustration in Husby and it risks spiralling out of control; people want long-term solutions to social problems instead of an increased police presence," Djalaie told The Local .
“It’s a neighbourhood where one-third of junior high school graduates leave school without adequate grades; they step straight out into unemployment. It’s obvious what the consequences are.”
Television pictures of blazing cars come as a jolt to a country proud of its reputation for social justice and its hospitality towards refugees.
“I understand why many people who live in these suburbs and in Husby are worried, upset, angry and concerned,” said justice minister Beatrice Ask. “Social exclusion is a very serious cause of many problems.” Stockholm has been reducing the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy. – (Reuters )