Friday, May 31, 2013

Is the Riot in Stockholm over?

I know, I should have written this piece last week while Stockholm was on the spotlight from from China to Spain from Russia to the UK due to the riot which engulfed with hundreds of cars set ablaze in much of the suburbs of the town. One of the reasons why I didn't write about it was I just wanted to see how the events develop and the other reason is that I feel like to sit back and see these episodes as an outsider (who lives far from these areas) and as insider as someone with immigrant background. Since I am not a social scientist, all my perspectives and views are only based on my observations and what I heard from residents affected by these incidents; and they shouldn't be considered
to judge/demonize anyone of the groups or individuals.
Vi betala skatt, ni protestera
Its literal meaning is we pay the tax and you protest or riot; this was what I overheard on the aftermath of the first rioting (Monday, May 20/2013) from a 40+ years old woman with thick Balkan accent who admonished local angry boys/men of Husby who were trying to corner a couple of police officers, when I went there to document the incidents. These angry and agitated young boys/men were trying to justify the riot over the killing of a machete wielding old man by the police and alleged that the police officers who came on the eve of the riot to stop the riot were brutal and using racist remarks against the residents of Husby. One of them whom I saw walking a dog with his friends when I came out of from the Metro station complained that the police were contaminating the environs of the nearby Mosque with their dogs on that night. And then this tough looking little kid ( around 7-8 years old, I guess) with a cap backside and big school backpack came and joined the crowd. He told the police officer what happened on Sunday night wasn't good adding that the fire from those cars which were burning could also spread to nearby apartments. I left them there and went around to see the damage. Life was back to normal and it didn't look like a riot place; children were playing; women pushing their strolls; men sitting on the bench chit-chatting while others were busy shopping from the nearby food-stores/grocery.
I came back to the center after taking pictures of burned down cars and vandalized properties and then met accidentally one of my acquaintances who is in his forties and happens to live around the corner. I asked him his opinion about the incident and he told me it has nothing to do with being unemployed or other social vices these rioters are justifying for their actions. This guy who came eight years ago from one of the repressive countries in Africa said the blame should be on the parents of the rioters who failed to discipline their children who neither go to school nor like to work. I confronted him these rioters might be frustrated and angry due to the alleged structural racism and discrimination in the job market but he refute those claims taking himself and other first generation immigrants as an examples who are able to get jobs/internships and other training opportunities regardless of those claims. He said though he likes and grateful to Sweden for everything he has no choice but wants to retire back in Africa somewhere as prospects will be tougher for immigrants due to such violent incidents.
We are scared they'll come again for our school
This nightly riot which started in Husby spread like a wildfire during the consecutive five days to various suburbs of Stockholm costing taxpayers millions of Krona in damages with hundreds burned cars, vandalized schools, police stations and other public and private properties. One of the areas which were affected by this incidents were Rinekby and Tensta on Thursday night; when I arrived in Rinekby five cars were burned down to the ground. One of the locals whom I talked to while filming the scene told me that those gutted down cars could have been spared if the fire-fighters could have come on time but when I asked him how could he expect them to come when they were attacked by the youth while trying to put off fires started somewhere the previous day, he didn't have an answer. He said the fire started by small children whose parents he said couldn't discipline them because of the Swedish lax law which allows the kids to behave badly. Then I went to another nearby suburb called Tensta where a school was attacked but luckily saved by the firefighters. I saw maintenance workers taking out blackened school chairs and then three teenage girls came to me while I was taking pictures of one of the windows darkened by the fire. I asked what they think of this recent development and one bubbly veiled girl told me that they couldn't breath in the classroom because of the smoke and feared that the rioters might come for their school on the weekend.
Lämna en Sten, Plocka en Korv
Stockholm and some other towns of Sweden hosted these riots for five days on the row and as result some countries like England, the U.S.A. and Austarlia issued travel warnings to their respective citizens to avoid going to those places affected by the riot which many people considered it as something taken out of proportion. Well, I went back to Husby around 10 o'clock in the evening to find out what's going on but to my amazement what I found out was totally different from what I anticipated. Buffalo Solider by Bob Marley was being played by a hippie-looking white Rastafarian man from his CD player. The air is filled with the smells of sausages and meat being grilled by young men in front of a couple cameramen/women who were sending live transmission. The crowd was from all age groups, various races and genders who were having good time and mingling forgetting their woos and daily problems. I was told that this imitative was taken by the locals to end the riots peacefully after a series of dialogues between the youth and the adults. The theme for that night's get-together was Lämna en Sten, plocka en korv which means Leave the Stone and Grab the Sausage. The people I talked to said they would like more respect from the politicians and law enforcement authorities who took them for granted by taking away (pharmacy, bank, police station, youth-center, post-office etc) all what Husby has to other places. Before I left Husby I asked one teenage boy
what should be done to resolve the issues in his neighborhood and he said naively in fluent English “the problem is already solved”. It was midnight when I arrived in Kista to take the bus to my place and I saw four teenage boys (max 14 years old) waiting for the bus or just truanting; I always find this very strange as a someone who came from a very conservative culture/family with strict night-curfews towards children. We hopped in the bus after we chatted with a bunch police officers who just came to the bus-station minutes before our bus arrived. I sat next to them and I overheard how scared they were when the police officers approached them, then one of the kid separated from his mates who were sitting at the back and sat on the chair in front of me. He took out a knife, then cut off the string which attaches the emergency hammer next to the window...hmm unsurprisingly one of the other boy at the backseat did the same thing. I asked them why are they doing this but one of them asked me if I am from Eritrea while the other requested me if I have cigarettes. I got off from the bus wondering what these disgruntled kids or thousands of their peers will do on that night or in a few days/weeks/ years.

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