Sweden Riots Spread Beyond Stockholm

Melissa Stusinski - Author

Aug. 23 2017, Updated 2:40 a.m. ET

Riots in Sweden have spread beyond Stockholm, where they began on May 19. The violence erupted in the normally calm and welcoming country after police shot a 69-year-old man they claim was waving a machete at officers as they attempted to search his home.

The violence, largely unheard of in the Scandinavian country, has shocked Swedes. Along with searching for answers to what is causing the riots, they are also debating what the underlying causes could be.

Some Swedes are blaming the perpetrators for failing to integrate with the nation, while other residents of the suburbs have complained they were forgotten by mainstream society.

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Peter Kadhammar, who covers immigration and integration issues for Swedish daily Aftonbladet, commented, “This has shaken Sweden. Of course, everyone has been aware of the massive failures in the immigrant policies, but this has shaken Sweden because the violence was so widespread.”

More than 100 cars have been set on fire since the riots began. Dozens of buildings have also been torched, including schools, stores, and a police station. The riots are centered in poor immigrant suburbs and are the latest to break out in Europe in the past decade.

Along with Sweden, riots have also taken place in Paris in 2005 and London in 2011. While the images of rioting coming out of Sweden have shocked the world, anyone listening to the country’s social workers, political scientists, rappers, and right wing extremists shouldn’t be surprised.

For years, these groups have been telling about the two Stockholms — two societies living side-by-side in a modern world. But that all changed when the 68-year-old man, a Portuguese immigrant, was shot to death by police. While officials stated the man was wielding a machete at police and holding a woman hostage, a group that campaigns for social change in Stockholm’s suburbs had a different story.

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The group, Megafonen, published pictures of a body bag being taken from the man’s home and driven away in a car. Later, it emerged that the hostage was actually the man’s wife of 30 years. The machete was really a kitchen knife, according to the man’s brother-in-law, who added the dead man was using it to ward off a gang of youths. When the police knocked on the door, the man thought it was the youths, and yelled at them, probably a little threateningly.

So, he was killed. The true story set the city on a course that lead to the massive riots that have been called the worst in Stockholm’s modern history. It has spread from the capital to the suburbs. And while the original intent may have been retaliation for the 68-year-old man’s death, the tone has changed to protesting unemployment and lack of activity for youths. It is also an uproar over police violence, racism, and a feeling that no one cares.

With the riots spreading away from Sweden’s capital, it is unclear when they will come to an end.

[Image via Peter Isotalo]


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