Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Riots grip Stockholm surburbs as violent trouble spreads

Firemen extinguish a burning car in the Stockholm suburb of Kista (AP)
Firemen extinguish a burning car in the Stockholm suburb of Kista (AP)
A car is set on fire during the riots
A car is set on fire during the riots

Stockholm is braced for further riots as violent unrest that began almost a week ago in the northern suburbs of the Swedish capital continued to spread to other corners of the city.

The brother-in-law of a 68 year old man who was shot by police in his apartment twelve days ago, in an incident said to be the initial cause of the unrest, has spoken out for the first time, asking people to “stop burning cars”.

 

“I would say to anyone who burns cars that it is completely the wrong way to react. From violence, we only get more violent. It is not the solution.We have to discuss with the police and get along,” Risto Kajanto told Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper.

 

Mr Kajanto said his brother-in-law, whose name has still not been made public, had been eating in a restaurant, and when he returned home, he was confronted by a gang of youths, who he threatened with a knife. When the police knocked on his door, he mistook them for the youths and didn't respond. Believing the woman in the apartment - his wife - to be in danger, the police, his brother-in-law maintains, shot him.

 

He had emigrated to Sweden from Portugal more than 30 years ago, and had been married to his Finnish wife for almost all of that time. She is now said to be in a state of shock. Swedish police have not commented on Mr Kajanto's version of events, but they were prepared for the continuing violence.

 

“We are prepared for the worst case scenario,” a police spokesman said. “And we have been every night since the first night. We think our resources will be sufficient, but it's very difficult because you cannot be sure where people will cause trouble. In some places, there can be just one person trying to cause trouble, and we can't know in advance where that will be.”

 

At least ten cars were set on fire in Rinkeby, a suburb close to Husby, where the trouble first began. There were fires too in Jordbru, far south of the city centre.

 

It is the worst civil unrest in Sweden in modern times. More than three hundred cars have been set on fire. At one point a police station in the north west was set on fire, but was quickly contained.

 

Five arrests were made on Wednesday night, but only one of those five people remains detained. On Tuesday night eight people were arrested in the Husby area. It is understood that the majority of those arrested by police have not been from the areas in which they were arrested, adding credence to the growing belief on the streets that the rioters are the same people, travelling from place to place, intent on causing trouble.

 

One 18 year old who was arrested on the first night of unrest on Sunday appeared in court today, looking visibly shaken after three days in custody, and told the court: “I want to go home and study, I have a test tomorrow.”

 

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said on Wednesday that all people must take responsibility for restoring calm in Stockholm.

 

“It's important to remember that burning your neighbour's car is not an example of freedom of speech, it's hooliganism,” he said.

 

Sweden has seen mass immigration in the last century, particularly since the Second World War. Its economy emerged relatively unscathed from the global financial crisis, but in the past twenty years it has had the fastest growing rate of inequality of any OECD country.

 

Local media have reported that police officers have used racist slurs, like “monkey” and “pig” while policing the unrest. Swedish police say they are investigating the matter. “If anybody would be insulted or be called racist words they should make a formal report,” said a police spokesman. “We haven't received any formal reports of this nature.”

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