Politics

Stockholm is burning

Stockholm is burning

The socialist paradise of Sweden is troubled, as “youths” and “asylum seekers” launched their fourth consecutive night of violent riots, “shocking a country that dodged the worst of the financial crisis but failed to solve youth unemployment and resentment among asylum seekers,” according to Reuters.

Hmm.  We just happen to have high unemployment and a large number of “asylum seekers” here in the United States, too.  What’s going on in Stockholm, Reuters?

Violence spread from the North to the South of the city on Wednesday as groups of youth pushed through Stockholm’s suburbs casting stones, breaking windows and setting cars alight. Police in the southern Swedish city of Malmo said two cars had been set ablaze.

Local media said a police station office was set on fire in the southern suburb of Rågsved, where several people were also detained. No one was hurt and the fire was quickly put out.

The attackers have awaited nightfall before setting out, defying a call for calm from the country’s prime minister and damaging stores, schools, a police station and an arts and crafts centre in the four days of violence.

“I think there is a feeling that we need to be in more places tonight,” said Towe Hagg, spokeswoman for Stockholm police. One police officer was injured in the latest attacks and five were arrested for attempted arson.

The BBC relays sage advice from Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt: “It’s important to remember that burning your neighbor’s car is not an example of freedom of speech, it’s hooliganism.”  Got that, “youths” and “asylum seekers” of Sweden?

The Beeb includes some details of the riots that Reuters forgot to mention:

On Wednesday night 10 attacks were reported in the north-western suburbs while between 20 and 30 were burnt in southern parts of Stockholm.

Firefighters struggled to contain the fire at the restaurant in the southern suburb of Skogas, where young people pelted them with stones, the spokesman said.

Groups of rioters, as small as five people and as large as 100, have been seen this week, Mr Lindgren said. They typically wait for emergency services to attend a fire before attacking.

Green laser pointers have also been shone in the eyes of the emergency services, according to Mr Lindgren.

Burning out the eyes of first responders with lasers?  That’s not an example of freedom of speech, either.

Who are these rioting “youths,” and what’s their problem?  The riots began in a district of Stockholm called Husby, described by the BBC as a “deprived, largely immigrant suburb” where “more than 80 percent of the 12,000 or so inhabitants are from an immigrant background, and most are from Turkey, the Middle East, and Somalia.”

There is much talk in news reports of the terrible youth unemployment rate among this demographic in Sweden, although at 16 percent it’s not much different from the current youth unemployment rate in the United States, while American minority youths fare considerably worse.  The gradually increasing “austerity” of the incredibly generous Swedish welfare state, combined with unemployment, is said to provoked anger.

Importing a large, unassimilated population into a soft economy and building generational dependency with lavish welfare benefits leads to ugly riots when the money runs out?  Good to know.

These “youths” are also said to be distrustful towards the police, who have allegedly treated them with “disrespect,” hassled them with “unnecessary identity checks,” and referred to them as “apes” and “monkeys.”  The BBC relates such complaints from a youth organizer, along with official denials:

Rami al-Khamisi, a law student and founder of the youth organisation Megafonen, told the Swedish edition of online newspaper The Local this week that he had been insulted racially by police. Teenagers, he said, had been called “monkeys”, fuelling resentment.

The Stockholm police spokesman said he was aware that complaints had been made about the behaviour of one police officer but added that he could “hardly believe” all the complaints being made were true.

The same Rami al-Khamisi is also quoted by Reuters:

“We see a society that is becoming increasingly divided and where the gaps, both socially and economically, are becoming larger,” said Rami Al-khamisi, co-founder of Megafonen, a group that works for social change in the suburbs.

“And the people out here are being hit the hardest … We have institutional racism.”

The riots were less severe than those of the past two summers in Britain and France but provided a reminder that even in places less ravaged by the financial crisis than Greece or Spain, state belt-tightening is toughest on the poor, especially immigrants.

“The reason is very simple. Unemployment, the housing situation, disrespect from police,” said Rouzbeh Djalaie, editor of the local Norra Sidan newspaper, which covers Husby. “It just takes something to start a riot, and that was the shooting.”

The shooting Mr. Djalaie refers to involved the police killing a 69-year-old Husby man… who was brandishing a machete.  Very few reports I’ve seen of the riots, from either local or international media, discuss the circumstances of this shooting in detail, but a report in the Austrailian Courier-Mail says the man wielded his machete “in public,” locked himself in the apartment with a woman when the police showed up, refused to open the door during mediation, and was shot with machete in hand after the cops finally kicked the door down.  Maybe it’s time to think about a pan-European machete ban.  Those things are nothing but trouble.

Several reports mention that a big sore point among the rioting “youths” is that the police originally reported Machete Guy was taken to the hospital by an ambulance, when in fact he died at the scene and was removed with a hearse.  That doesn’t really seem worth rioting over.

All observers seem to agree that the police shooting was the spark that lit a tinderbox of frustration with the fading Swedish welfare state.  The Washington Post report on the Stockholm riots has a menacing air about it:

This is a wake-up call for decision makers and Swedish society as a whole,” says Awad Hersi, a Stockholm city councillor from near where the riots started. But Hersi, of Somali origin, argues that the situation is not yet as serious as it was in London in 2011 or Paris in 2005. “There are differences with Stockholm: the scale, the methods are different. Stockholm still has a chance but it is a matter of time.”

[...] The unrest has provoked intense soul-searching in a country that prides itself for both its generous welfare state and open immigration policy. Sweden accepted 44,000 asylum-seekers in 2012, up by nearly a half from a year earlier. Among industrial countries, it has the second-largest amount of asylum-seekers relative to its population, according to U.N. figures. Sweden prides itself on treating them well, offering them benefits and housing as well as free Swedish lessons on arrival.

But now some are questioning whether that is enough. The big problem in a suburb such as Husby, where immigrants represent about 80 percent of the population, is unemployment, particularly among the young. Swedish youth unemployment stands at 25.1 percent, about triple the level of overall joblessness. And much of that youth unemployment is concentrated among immigrants from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria.

“Some are questioning whether that is enough?”  Nice country you have here, Swedes.  It would be a shame if something bad were to happen to it.

Russia Today found at least one Swedish journalist who doesn’t like where this is all heading:

 

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