This is an overview of the recent riots in Gothenburg by our Swedish correspondent CB. It will be followed by a second report that includes two translated articles
Gothenburg is burning!
The night before Saturday five more cars were torched in Gothenburg, and the night before Friday four cars were set on fire. The car-burnings are noticed by the Swedish media, but there are also schools and non-descript sheds burning in several Swedish towns.
People are now asking themselves how far this will spread, and if Gothenburg’s suburbs are turning into their own versions of Rosengård. The question seems to have some merit since police, fire fighters, and ambulance personnel are greeted with stone-throwing when they arrive in Gothenburg’s suburbs, and grownups who try to keep some order in their neighborhood don’t dare to venture out at night anymore, after repeated gunfire in the areas.
During one fire-fighting call, a fire truck got a 5.7 kilo stone through the front window, lightly injuring three men. They were lucky, escaping fatalities by inches. The incident is viewed as an attempted homicide. Finally, at about three in the morning on Sunday, somebody set off a bomb outside the door of an apartment house.
The latest round of arson, destruction of property and stone throwing began August 10th, after the police took action at the convenience store on Blendas Gata, Backa. The police responded to an alarm from a woman they deemed highly trustworthy, saying that a man was carrying a concealed gun in or close to the store. Arriving at the scene, the heavily armed police rounded up several young immigrants in a search for the potentially armed man.
This was viewed by the same immigrant youths as a provocation from the police and sufficient reason for the mayhem that ensued and is ongoing. The police doubt that is the true reason for the unrest, since this wasn’t the first time they had had to respond to emergency calls from the same area, with guns and shootings involved.
That has prompted the experts to put in their oh-so-important two cents’ worth on the situation, and we all know their recommendations: more money poring into the ‘hood and recognition of the criminals’ grievances — they don’t have anything to do, you see. Whatever you do, don’t make the police go after them.
And while you’re at it: see to it that the stone throwers get a job so they quit throwing stones. Thursday evening on the debate program Debatt on Swedish public TV, a representative of one of the major public housing companies, Poseidon, said that they would make a serious effort to find jobs for the “youths”. However, that didn’t stop the “youths” from continued torching of cars and other property the same night.
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To begin with: The police can stop the arson and destruction. Rosengård has calmed down since the police came there in greater numbers, determined to stop the stone-throwers and the fires. It is a basic function of a civilized society to arrest people who destroy and burn other people’s property and attack emergency personnel. This gives people the security that is their right.
Now, is Gothenburg turning into a new Rosengård?
There are similarities and differences. The crisis in Rosengård has gone on for a long time and we’re not there yet in Gothenburg. In Rosengård we find many unemployed, and in the notorious Herrgården the figures are around 90%, according to the writer and journalist Lars Åberg.
Åberg has followed Rosengård since the beginning of the 1970’s and knows the area. He says that the basic problem there isn’t that there are too many people in too small apartments that are in too bad condition, but that too few grown men and women earn their own keep, and people in public employment who are fearful to address the basic problems. One has to assume that this is due to the fear of being labeled a racist. In many ways Rosengård fits the description of many immigrant suburbs in Sweden, so these words by Åberg are worth remembering:
Here a welfare society has been established with its own infrastructure and at a growing distance from its surroundings. Today quite a few live here who, mainly for religious reasons, dislike Swedish society and its values.
A new generation grows up without sufficient knowledge gained from school, and thus has no chance in the ordinary labor-market.
In academia these children are often called bilingual, but in reality they are without language. My subjective view, after following Rosengård since the early 70’s, is that the children generally speak ever worse Swedish. And as a screen over this state lays a patriarchal worldview, with a hierarchal structure where boys are given more room than the girls; a value conflict that politicians and civil servants don’t want to recognize, since the consequences would be considerable if it were recognized and dealt with according to the ideas about equality held by workers’ movements and social service laws.
To talk about a societal failure seem relevant. I would like to say that this is primarily political, since the suburban politics have been about the same since the suburbs were built, and — in spite of the billions — yield poor results.
What we have are growing numbers of people living in a closed culture in many suburbs in Sweden, and that is a closedness that to a large extent is self-imposed. Lars Åberg has realized that it is easier for politicians to put the people in public employment through different courses about racism, sighing over growing numbers for the Sweden Democrats, than to do something about the basic problems in the suburbs. In this I believe he’s correct, but I would go farther than he does in asking not just the youths, but all the people in these suburbs, if they really want to belong to Swedish society, with Swedish values. If not, seriously, why stay if you resent us so much?
The money in Sweden is better than in their countries of origin! Certainly, but it should be Sweden and the Swedes deciding the rules of the game if you come here to stay.
And a basic rule is to do your part to become a member of Sweden and contribute. Or, it should be anyway. There are a lot of people these days who are unemployed, have a hard time, are trying to get a new job or education, have nothing worthwhile to do, and who do not burn other peoples property and throw stones and rocks at police and firefighters. And, unemployment doesn’t excuse parents’ not controlling their kids.
At the same time it seems that Gothenburg has had more serious problems in recent years, with gangs shooting at each others members in public as late as this spring. There are many suggestions that the unrest may have a connection with the gang world in Gothenburg. A police report [pdf; URL not available] filed in 2005 suggests that organized crime gangs recruit among local youth street gangs in the suburbs, and many of the suburbs, like Backa now plagued by arson and unrest, are singled out as fertile recruiting ground for the criminal gangs in the report.
The report also states that many of the new members in the gangs are second-generation immigrants or first-generation immigrants who came to Sweden at an early age. And there is an emphasis on violent crimes and theft. The median age is around 20 years.
The police don’t want to contribute to what is called by some the “suburb wars”, which they doubt exist (even though they know there are some tensions between gangs from different suburbs), but at the same time they say that they see proof that the unrest is organized and that this might be some form of recruiting test by the criminal gangs. This has led the Gothenburg police to create a special group, with the specific order to collect and analyze all recent arsons and stone throwing.
From what I’ve found so far, this is more of a gang-immigration-integration related problem, not a religiously motivated problem. The religious reasons pointed out by Lars Åberg may contribute to an unwillingness to become a part of Swedish society and give society due respect, perhaps causing the formation of street gangs of similar background. We can also find various Islamist groups in Gothenburg, most certainly influencing the views of young people from Muslim countries. But we see nothing of the religious shroud the riots had this winter in Rosengård, related to the closing of the Islamic culture association’s basement premises. In Gothenburg we hear much of the “We have nothing to do and the police harass us; what do you expect us to do?” at the moment. And, as far as I can tell, we haven’t yet seen the naked death threats against fire personnel in Gothenburg, like the ones in Rosengård.
That being said, there are reasons for this happening in Sweden.
One is the unwillingness of official Sweden to name these young people for what they are, and act accordingly: They are criminals and should be removed from the streets, to the benefit of all law-abiding citizens. There’s no reason people living in poor conditions should live under threats of violence in a way nobody would tolerate in other areas of Gothenburg.
Those criminals shouldn’t by any means be rewarded with jobs, just to keep them calm. That is a real insult to everyone without a job, searching for a new job, maybe having to move to a new place and leave friends behind, and who’s not destroying property to get said job.
This willingness to excuse the perpetrator for his crimes is really devastating for Sweden. I watched the Debatt program with one of my friend from Iran, and he couldn’t believe his eyes and ears, the things he heard representatives from authorities and Poseidon say, and he asked me: “You Swedes are so stupid! Don’t you realize that you’ll just make it worse by caving in to these thugs? What do you think the American police would do if people threw rocks and stones at them and the firefighters? Do grow some b***s!”
Second; where are these kids’ parents? Its one thing when they’re around 20 years old, but the 12-14-year-olds? There should be some kind of system holding parents responsible for their kids. How hard can it be to keep your brat at home? You can’t blame society or school for everything.
Thirdly; there seem to be an idea that everything will be fine in school if you’re nice and tone down the demands on the pupils. In reality that has many times translated into an unwillingness to react in a strong manner when pupils don’t care about schoolwork or misbehave or abuse other kids. That is not being nice; it’s a mean thing to do to a kid, because when he enters adulthood, he will find that there are demands he can’t live up to. Further, one third of all pupils leave school with incomplete grades. What will their future be? Not such a bright one!
The present liberal-conservative government in Sweden says they want to raise standards of education in Sweden. That is well and good, and I hope they realize that there are those kids from backgrounds where basic reading and theoretical skills are sparse or frowned upon, and who need something other than the standardized education. I say this based on my own experience of working in the immigrant suburbs in Stockholm. Many kids there have a tough time fighting a poor educational background in their families and have few role models in the get-an-education-and-a-job category.
Feeding daily on rhetoric from parents and friends that they don’t have any future in Sweden, the gang-world is alluring for some kids, and for some, their ethnic background does give them a harder time when they try to get ahead in this world. But, as a friend of mine from Africa said to me: “I had to work harder than my Swedish friends to get to where I am, but that is never an excuse for crimes!”
Fourthly; Sweden should think long and hard about who we let into our country. In what way does it benefit Sweden to give people who have no love or respect for our way of life a permanent permit to stay? In what way did Sweden become a better country for not standing up to the barbaric views and practices of an “honor culture”? Why continue to bring in people from cultures that so far create so many problems? It’s bizarre to continue to do everything the same way, year after year, and then wonder why things go wrong.
I can think of many more things that should be done to counter the present crisis, but as long as the multicultural dogma lies like a wet blanket over Sweden, very little will happen and the disintegration will continue and reach more and more places, with an ever-growing price tag attached to it.