Sweden comes to terms with huge youth demo

Sweden was coming to terms Saturday with one of the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen – against growing binge drinking and violence among Swedish youth.

More than 12,000 people swamped the streets of the capital Stockholm on Friday to ‘say no to violence’ after a teenager was killed by drunken teens at a birthday party a week ago.

Hundreds of other demonstrators showed their solidarity in other Swedish cities, from Gothenburg to Malmö to Kalmar.

Sixteen year old Riccardo, whose first name only has been released by police, died after being hit by other adolescents at the end of a drunken birthday party in the central Stockholm.

Swedish police are holding three adolescents on suspicion of manslaughter.

“I organised this demonstration because I feel concerned. It could have been me that night,” Anton Abele, 15, who had been at the party on October 5, told AFP.

His father Gunnar Abele said he thought the protest was unprecedented.

“It’s very rare in Sweden. At best on May Day you have 10,000,” he said.

For the past eight days the story has been front page news in Sweden. Even Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize was relegated to the second story on Saturday by both of Sweden’s leading newspapers. And the media have pointed the finger of responsbility at both the parents and the role of alcohol in the affair.

In Sweden it is against the law for anyone under the age of 20 to purchase alcohol in shops – yet few teenage birthday parties are held without booze.

“There is an obvious link between alcohol consumption and this tragedy. The people who were fighting were all drunk. At the party there was loads of booze,” said Anton Abele.

The teenager explained that “every young kid has his contacts, his ‘network’ for buying alcohol: an older brother, a big sister. Sometimes they import alcohol on the Internet from other countries.”

“There is an attitude in Sweden among young people: it’s a bit ‘cool’ to drink because it’s forbidden.”

Some parents even buy the alcohol for their offspring, added his father.

Sweden is not unique in being confronted with binge-drinking teenagers. The death of a 17-year-old Danish youth who choked to death whilst drunk on holiday in Bulgaria sparked a debate in Denmark in July. In August Finnish breweries launched a campaign against binge-drinking under the slogan: “You’re an idiot when you’re pissed!”