Drunken chaos mars Walpurgis celebrations

Police in Uppsala responded to reports of rape, assault and drunken behaviour as they struggled to contain revellers during chaotic Walpurgis Night celebrations in the city on Saturday.

Drunken chaos mars Walpurgis celebrations
A Walpurgis Night bonfire in Lund

Some 90 people were detained for public intoxication, while a further five or six people were arrested for assault in the university city located 70 kilometres north of Stockholm.

“We’re used to it, but there has been more than usual this year,” said police officer Mats Öjedahl.

“It’s chaos here. Aside from drunkenness, fighting and assault, we have had an attempted rape on Bellmansgatan where a woman was pulled into the bushes but managed to tear herself free.”

Police in Stockholm also reported a busy shift on a night renowned for its annual excesses.

“There’s an awful lot of drunkenness,” said police officer Maria Hugols. “We’ve been picking up drunken youngsters all over the place.”

However, police in many other parts of the country said the Walpurgis Night celebrations had not led to an upsurge in unruly behaviour.

“We thought it would be a lot worse,” said police officer Ingemar Johansson in Gothenburg. “It has been fairly reasonable. There’s been some drunkenness and fighting, but tell me a Walpurgis Night when there hasn’t been fighting.”

Police in Gotland were pleased that the situation on the Baltic Sea island appeared calmer than usual.

“It has absolutely been quieter than it usually is. A very good Walpurgis Night,” said a spokesperson.

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.