'A question of education': What Rinkeby residents think about the riots

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
'A question of education': What Rinkeby residents think about the riots
Rinkeby in Stockholm two days after the riot. Photo: Lee Roden/The Local

Rinkeby in Stockholm made global headlines in February after riots broke out involving car fires just days after Donald Trump thrust the spotlight on Sweden. But what do the people who actually live and work in the suburb think about it? The Local spoke to them to find out.


Rinkeby's issues will not be news to anyone living in Sweden. In 2015 police included it in a list of 15 areas judged to be “particularly vulnerable”, while two years prior it was one of several areas in Stockholm which saw violent unrest.

The area's challenges have been given renewed, global attention this week however, as the riot on February 20th coincided with US president Trump's factually inaccurate comments about crime and immigration in Sweden.

When The Local arrived in Rinkeby on Wednesday the atmosphere was calm, and there were few signs of the trouble from two nights before, with the exception of the occasional patched up window on shop fronts. But residents there still have plenty to say about the problems in the area.

"There were a few cars burning in the car park behind here – five or six of them. Then some kids broke the glass in the subway followed by shops and a restaurant," Haider, who works in the Rinkeby Livs store and saw the riot taking place, told The Local.

"The problem, you know, is that the police did nothing. And not for the first time. If they arrest someone who does something wrong, within a few days they're free. It doesn’t make a difference – there’s no punishment," he claimed.

Haider's complaint is in line with those made by other residents who have spoken to Swedish media outlets in the last few days, criticizing police for waiting too long before clamping down on the rioters. No arrests were made following Monday's riot, and the shop worker thinks that shows more needs to be done to prevent repeat incidents.

"It's not so many people causing trouble. Maybe 30, 40. Arrest the whole bunch. There are other solutions too. Split them up, move them all to different cities, for example, and leave the normal people in peace," he suggested.

"The people doing this stuff are known. It’s not the first time," his friend added. "If someone has an argument with their partner and the police are called, they're here straight away. But when this happens, they aren't."

The occasional repaired storefront was one of the few signs that a riot had taken place in Rinkeby 48 hours prior. Photo: Lee Roden/The Local

Preliminary figures from Sweden's National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) show that the Rinkeby-Kista municipality which Rinkeby is a part of was the municipality in Stockholm with the second highest rate of violent crimes reported in the city in 2016.

Its 2,405 reported violent crimes per 100,000 residents was lower than only Norrmalm in the city centre (3,679 per 100,000 residents). The lowest rate, by comparison, was found in Bromma (709 violent crimes per 100,000).

For global context on crime in Sweden, the overall rate of deadly violence in Sweden is about 1 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 5 per 100,000 in the US, according to the FBI.

Speaking to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday about the riot the night before, police commissioner Jan Evensson conceded that "zero arrests in a situation like this is not a pass", and promised that improvements will be made if it emerges that officers did take too long to intervene.

Not everyone The Local spoke to was as critical of the police however. A shop owner in the area who wished to remain anonymous, said the officers "do exactly what is required of them by the law, nothing more, nothing less".

"Everyday normal people here have a good relationship with the police and like having them around. You can speak with the police, have a laugh with them. The problem is between the criminals and the police," he explained.

"Part of the problem is that some people move here from countries with serious problems and it’s difficult for them to enter Swedish society. They look for the shortest route as a result, and that's crime," the man, who moved to Sweden 35 years ago, insisted.

"Sweden is one of the best countries in the world and has done its best, but some decisions it has taken have been weak. We have been hit by some bad decisions on immigration, so Trump is right in that regard. That's why I think the Sweden Democrats will win the next election here," he predicted.

Henrik Selin, a political scientist and the Swedish Institute's director of intercultural dialogue, believes that blaming immigration does not get to the root of the problems faced by areas like Rinkeby, where social issues and unemployment can also be found.

"The narrative in some media outlets – certainly not all, but some places like Fox News, Breitbart – is both extremely exaggerated, and also places an excessive focus on all of the problems being linked to immigration, which isn't true," he told The Local.

"People with a foreign background are to some extent overrepresented in crime statistics, but if you go deeper you'll notice there there is also usually a higher rate of unemployment, poverty and exclusion there."

That point was echoed by two women working in the Supershop store on Rinkeby's main square.

"Part of the problem is there isn’t much to do with your time for a lot of people here. There are many people from all kinds of different backgrounds, but some aren't well educated, don't have a job, and there's nothing for them to do. There isn't even something simple like bingo or the like," she said.

"It's a question of education," her colleague emphasized. "There isn't constant trouble, every few months or so something happens, but not that often. Most of the people here think things like what happened on Monday are absolutely terrible," she concluded.


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