Swedish police arrested eight people after riots broke out last night in several Stockholm suburbs, following a police shooting a week ago that left a local resident dead.
Rioters set fire to about 30 cars overnight in some of Sweden’s most ethnically diverse suburbs, including Husby, Norsborg and Vaarberg, Kjell Lindgren, a spokesman for the Swedish Police, said by phone today. In Husby, a school and the Husby Gaard cultural center were set alight while rubbish bins burned in many of the capital’s western and southern suburbs. A school was set on fire in Skaerholmen and a police station and buildings in central Jakobsberg were vandalized.
The unrest started May 19 in Husby -- an area constructed in the 1970s and dotted with high-rise apartment blocks -- about a week after police killed a 69-year-old man brandishing a knife. Sweden, where immigrants bear the brunt of Scandinavia’s highest unemployment rate, has suffered similar bouts of unrest before. In 2008, rioters in Rosengaard in the southern city of Malmoe clashed with police after setting fire to cars and bins. Those riots also spread to the Stockholm suburbs of Tensta and Husby.
Megafon, a community group in Husby, said the riots were a reflection of the “discontent” felt by about 200 local residents with the police shooting. “We understand people react this way,” Rami al-khamisi, a spokesman for Megafon, said in a statement on the organization’s website. Local residents “have no faith in the police,” he said.
“There is a core, as there often is, of young men who believe in using violence and who believe that this use of violence is above our democratic values and above Swedish law,” Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told reporters in Stockholm yesterday. “The people of Husby must get their suburb back because the majority want to live in calmness and safety.”
Unemployment is higher among immigrants living in Stockholm than residents born in Sweden. Among Swedish immigrants from countries outside the European Union, the percentage of people out of work or in job programs was 16.5 percent in 2011, compared with 5.7 percent for ethnic Swedes, according to Statistics Sweden.
Last year, 23 percent of municipal Stockholm’s 881,235 inhabitants came from outside Sweden, the same percentage as in Gothenburg, official figures show. That compares with 31 percent in Malmoe.
Most rioters arrested were aged about 20, police spokesman Lindgren said. Officers patrolling the capital city’s suburbs last night “felt the atmosphere was less confrontational than on previous nights,” he said. Police remain on standby to react in case the violence flares up again, he said. Claims of racial abuse by police officers against the rioters are also being investigated, he said.