‘Husby is usually a very peaceful place’

In the wake of Sunday's night's unrest in the north Stockholm district of Husby, The Local catches up with the editor of a local newspaper to find out more about what caused residents to take to the streets and how police responded.

'Husby is usually a very peaceful place'

According to local newspaper Norra Sidan’s (‘The North Side’) editor-in-chief Rouzbeh Djalaie, police in Stockholm reportedly called Husby rioters “monkeys” on Sunday night, with residents already concerned police were spreading disinformation which provided “the spark for social discontent”.

“There’s frustration in Husby and it risks spiralling out of control; people want long-term solutions to social problems instead of an increased police presence,” Djalaie told The Local.

“It’s a neighbourhood where one third of junior high school graduates leave school without adequate grades; they step straight out into unemployment. It’s obvious what the consequences are.”

Djalaie said he had spoken with people of all ages in Husby following Sunday night’s riot, including a local youth leader who went up to the police with some of his teenagers and asked if they could help.

The response, the youth leader said, was that the police called him a “nigger” while the boys were called “monkeys”. They also said the police attacked them with batons.

“If the police don’t want to cooperate, they should just say it; they don’t have to call people names and hit them with batons,” Djalaie said.

IN PICTURES: See the damage from the Husby fires

“No one is happy today, not even the ones who torched the cars; everyone knows this is not the solution to the problems.”

The shooting last week of a man wielding a machete at police added to the build-up that sparked Sunday night’s disturbances, which left dozens of cars torched and three police officers injured.

While the initial police report stated that an ambulance took the man to hospital after he was shot, local youth organizing network Megafonen reported on May 15th that neighbours said there was never an ambulance.

Instead a hearse turned up to cart the body off at 2am.

“The police are steadily increasing their presence in our neighbourhoods… We are also worried that the police are steadily becoming more aggressive and more prone to violence in their work,” Megafonen said in a statement in the run-up to the incident.

Megafonen went on to accuse the police of spreading “disinformation” and demanded an inquiry. The police later modified its official version of the incident.

Djalaie said the shooting likely contributed to the worsening mood among residents in Husby, a district in north-west Stockholm consisting primarily of multi-storey apartment buildings built in the late 1960s as part of Sweden’s “Million Programme” housing construction project.

“Social tension needs a spark, but it’s not the cause,” he said.

Djalaie did not think Husby risked overheating in the wake of Sunday’s disturbances, nor that the incident was a starting point for the sort of car-torching cycle of violence seen in the Paris suburbs a few years ago.

“There’s a strong civil society in Husby. There are a lot of associations, including Megafonen, an organization for young people that arranges everything from film screenings, help with homework, debates, writing courses,” he said.

“In fact I’m surprised this happened in Husby, which is usually very calm.”

Ann Törnkvist

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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.