STOCKHOLM – The Swedish capital has been rocked by protests for a sixth straight night, denting the country’s reputation as an oasis of peace and harmony, Media Reported.
Community patrols and a beefed-up police presence helped to calm violence around Stockholm overnight on Saturday but 20 to 30 cars were still torched in poor immigrant suburbs and serious incidents were reported outside the capital for the first time.
The rioting in Stockholm abated after a week of masked youths vandalizing schools and police stations, setting cars alight and hurling stones at firefighters, police said.
“It was much calmer – rocks weren’t being thrown at police or firefighters – and that’s a sign that it’s calmer. We haven’t had any riots or anything similar,” said police spokesman Kjell Lindgren.
Community leaders were taking to the streets, dressed in fluorescent jackets, to try to calm things down.
“We have been present in many places, we’ve been talking to people, and many residents have been out in the city, keeping their eyes open, being engaged,” Lindgren said.
But serious incidents were reported outside the Stockholm area, for the first time.
In Orebro, a town in central Sweden, some 25 masked youths set fire to three cars and a school and tried to torch a police station, police said. Some 200 km to the southwest in Linkoping, several vehicles were set on fire and youths tried to torch a school and a kindergarten, they said.
The rioting was sparked by the police shooting on May 13 of a 69-year-old man, who media reported was killed when police stormed his apartment because they feared he was threatening his wife with a large knife. Media said he was a Portuguese immigrant, which police would not confirm.
In a country famed for its model welfare state, the rioting has exposed a fault-line between a well-off majority and a minority – often young people with immigrant backgrounds – who are poorly educated, cannot find work and feel pushed to the edge of society.
Underscoring Sweden’s ambivalence toward its open immigration policies, an anti-immigrant party has risen to third in polls this year and some analysts say the riots could swell its ranks. Dozens of far-right activists were seen driving around some southern suburbs of Stockholm on Friday, closely watched by police.