“These are extremely serious crimes against our society,” the Swedish national police chief, Anders Thornberg said at a press conference on Monday.
He believes those involved have focused on harming the police. “Attempts were made to kill police officers”, he said.
The riots began on Thursday 14th April ahead of a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that was meant to include a burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
While Stram Kurs had been given permission to hold their demonstration in the Skaggetorp neighbourhood — where over 50 percent of inhabitants were born abroad — they were not able to start it as police were dealing with the rioters.
The riots have continued to escalate over the weekend. Jonas Hysing, Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish police, said at the press conference that he sees the police as the target of the violence.
“There is a lot to suggest that it was the police who were the target – rather than the organiser,” he said.
According to Jonas Hysing, 26 police officers have been injured, 20 police vehicles have been damaged or destroyed, while 14 civilians have been injured.
In all, about 200 people have been involved in the riots. According to police, those involved have links to criminal networks.
“Criminals have profited from the situation to show violence toward society, without any link to the demonstrations,” national police chief Anders Thornberg said.
“There are too few of us. We have grown, but we have not grown at the same pace as the problems at the heart of society,” he said, asking for more resources for the police.
“These are extremely serious crimes that have targeted our society. It’s worse than violent riots, from my point of view. This is something else. These are not ordinary counter-protesters”, the national police chief added.
Police have footage from their own body cameras and videos from members of the public but they are also urging people to share their footage with police by uploading it onto the police website.
26 people have been arrested so far. Eight people were arrested in the city of Norrköping and 18 people were detained in the neighbouring city of Linköping, police said in a statement.
Late on Sunday evening, there was unrest and several fires in the Malmö district of Rosengård. “There was a fairly large fire at Rosengårdsskolan, and we had to escort the fire brigade so that they could put out the fire. It is unclear how much of the school has been destroyed,” police stated.
Earlier on Sunday, there were also riots in the cities of Norrköping and Linköping. Here Rasmus Paludan had announced several Koran burnings, but did not show up.
Police said officers wounded three people after firing warning shots during Sunday’s clashes.
“Police fired several warning shots. Three people appear to have been hit by ricochets and are currently being treated in hospital”, police said in a statement. The three who were injured were under arrest, police said, adding that their condition was not known.
Rasmus Paludan, who intends to stand in Swedish legislative elections in September but does not yet have the necessary number of signatures to secure his candidature, has been on a “tour” of Sweden.
He has been visiting neighbourhoods with large Muslim populations where he wants to burn copies of the Koran
Paludan told Norwegian TV2 on Monday that he is taking a week off from his election tour.
“I am in Copenhagen, and there will probably only be new election meetings in Sweden in a week”, he said on Monday.
According to spokeswoman for the Swedish police, Carina Skagerlind, the police are not aware that permits have been granted for upcoming Paludan voter meetings.
The leader of the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, who has a criminal conviction in Denmark for inciting racial hatred, was previously banned from entering Sweden for two years. But he later confirmed he was a Swedish citizen as well as a Danish citizen, and could therefore not be banned from entering the country.
Paludan, a lawyer and YouTuber, came to prominence in Denmark through his anti-Islam demonstrations in areas with sizeable minority ethnic communities. The main feature of the demonstrations is burning and desecration of the Koran.
On Saturday, one of his rallies was moved from a district of Landskrona to an isolated car park in southern Malmo, the large neighbouring city, but a car tried to force the protective barriers. The driver was arrested and Paludan then burned a Koran.
— Breaking News 24/7 (@Worldsource24) April 14, 2022
In the wake of the string of incidents, Iraq’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Swedish charge d’affaires in Baghdad Sunday.
It warned that the affair could have “serious repercussions” on “relations between Sweden and Muslims in general, both Muslim and Arab countries and Muslim communities in Europe”.
In November 2020, Paludan was arrested in France and deported. Five other activists were arrested in Belgium shortly after, accused of wanting to “spread hatred” by burning a Koran in Brussels.