Riots in Sweden spread beyond the capital yesterday, the sixth straight night of unrest that flared in Stockholm’s immigrant-dominated suburbs and has sparked a debate over integration in a country long seen as an oasis of peace.
Cars and buildings were torched overnight in the medium-sized towns of Oerebro, Uppsala and Linkoeping, though tensions showed signs of easing in Stockholm’s suburbs.
The unrest has sparked a debate among Swedes over the integration of immigrants, many of whom arrived under the country’s generous asylum policies, and who now make up about 15 percent of the population.
Firefighters responded to about 30 or 40 incidents in the greater Stockholm area overnight, down from 70 the night before and 90 the night prior to that.
“The past night was the calmest we’ve seen so far,” Stockholm police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said.
Police reinforcements were called in from Sweden’s second and third biggest cities, Gothenburg and Malmoe — which have both experienced riots in the past decade — and volunteers patrolling the streets to restore calm had had a deterring effect and helped reduce the violence, Lindgren said.
Police arrested one person for attempted assault and about 20 others were briefly detained and then released for disturbing the peace, Lindgren said.
In the town of Oerebro, 160km west of Stockholm, police reported a fire at a school as well as several cars ablaze. A police officer was injured by a thrown stone and a police station was vandalized.
In Linkoeping, 235km southwest of the capital, a number of vehicles were incinerated, and a nursery and a primary school were both set on fire.
In Uppsala, 70km north of Stockholm, a school and a car were set ablaze, and a pharmacy was vandalized.
It remained unclear whether the cause of the unrest in the other towns was, as in Stockholm, immigrants’ discontent, or merely copycat vandalism.
However, the Oerebro police spokesman said that he believed it was the latter.
About 200 right-wing extremists were reported to cruise around Stockholm suburbs in their cars late on Friday, but intense police surveillance prevented any kind of serious violence.
The nightly riots have prompted Britain’s Foreign Office and the US embassy in Stockholm to issue warnings to their nationals, urging them to avoid the affected suburbs.
The troubles began in the suburb of Husby, where 80 percent of inhabitants are immigrants, believed to be triggered by the fatal police shooting of a 69-year-old Husby resident last week after the man wielded a machete in public.
Local activists said the shooting sparked anger among youths who claim to have suffered from police brutality and racism.