Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'
Police block off rioters in Rosengård, Malmö, on Saturday night. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 


More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 

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Sweden’s Liberal Party catches up with Centre in new poll

Sweden's two small centrist parties are now nearly neck and neck, according to a new poll, with the Liberal Party catching up with the Centre Party.

Sweden's Liberal Party catches up with Centre in new poll

According to a poll carried out by Novus for state broadcaster SVT, support for the Liberal Party has leapt by 1.5 percent to 5.0 percent, putting it safely over the four percent threshold for entering parliament, and within a whisker of the Centre Party’s 5.4 percent. 

The party’s new leader, Johan Pehrson, played down the impact of his own leadership. 

“I hope and believe that this is because many people like the political issues we’ve been pushing for a long time,” he said. “It could be because of a good energy politics, not least nuclear, the Nato issue, the schools issue, and that people are tired of the way many other parties claim to be smart on the basis of hindsight.” 

Three months ago, under Perhson’s predecessor Nyamko Sabuni, the Liberals were languishing far below the four percent threshold and looked set to be ejected from parliament after the election. 

Torbjörn Sjöström, Novus’s chief executive, said that there was no political issue in which the Centre Party dominates today, with only eight percent of voters ranking them best for business, and the Moderates having greater support on the environment and climate. 

Elin Larsson, the former vice chair of the Centre Party’s student organisation, said that the Centre Party had been struggling to position themselves since backing a new Social Democrat government in January 2019. 

“I think It’s been hard to find a position in this parliamentary term, and show voters what a vote for the Centre Party means,” she said. “There’s been a focus on what other parties do and think, rather than on their own policies.” 

She said that while Centre appeared stuck fast to the issue of how to handle the Sweden Democrats, other parties had moved on to other issues, giving them a new momentum. 

 “That’s why Magdalena Andersson seems like a breath of fresh air and  even Johan Pehrson’s arrival has changed the position for the Centre Party. Annie Lööf suddenly looks a little dated.”