Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of the country's capital, Stockholm.
The neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest on drug charges at about 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted youths to gather.
Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police. Police spokesman Lars Bystrom confirmed to Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an officer fired shots at a rioter but missed. A photographer for the newspaper was attacked and beaten by more than a dozen men and his camera was stolen.
Bystrom later said that a police officer was slightly injured and that one person was arrested for throwing rocks, news agencies reported. Some civilians were also assaulted while trying to stop looters, he said.
Bystrom said, “This kind of situation doesn’t happen that often, but it is always regrettable when they happen.”
In 2015, when the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe from Africa, the Middle East and Asia was at its peak, Sweden took in the greatest number per capita. By and large, integration has been a success story there, save for incidents such as Monday night's, which have taken place in highly segregated neighborhoods.
Dagens Nyheter analyzed crime statistics between October 2015 and January 2016 and concluded that refugees were responsible for only 1 percent of all crimimal incidents. That has done little to assuage perceptions, even among Swedes, that foreigners carry out the vast majority of crimes. A Pew Research Center study conducted in early 2016 indicated that 46 percent of Swedes believed that “refugees in our country are more to blame for crime than other groups.”
Trump clarified on Twitter that he drew his claim about immigrant violence in Sweden — made at a campaign-style speech in Melbourne, Fla. — from a Fox News segment in which two Swedish police officers were interviewed. The segment was part of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and featured filmmaker Ami Horowitz, who was introduced as someone who had documented an “incredible surge of refugee violence” in Sweden.
The two Swedish officers whose interview provided the basis for the report spoke out Monday and claimed that their testimony had been taken out of context. One of them, Anders Göranzon, said that the interview was about areas with high crime rates and that “there wasn’t any focus on migration or immigration.”
“We don’t stand behind it. It shocked us. He has edited the answers,” Göranzon said. “We were answering completely different questions in the interview. This is bad journalism.”
Horowitz defended his work to the Guardian newspaper, saying he was “pretty sure” that he told the officers what the segment was going to be about and implying that the officers' disavowal was made under pressure from their superiors.
Multiple criminologists in Sweden contacted by The Washington Post over the weekend said the notion that immigrants were responsible for a large proportion of crime in the country was highly exaggerated. None were comfortable referring to neighborhoods such as Rinkeby as “no-go zones.”
Nevertheless, the integration of immigrants into Swedish society is a problem that the government has been struggling to address. “Sweden, definitely, like other countries, [faces] challenges when it comes to integration of immigrants into Swedish society, with lower levels of employment, tendencies of exclusion and also crime-related problems,” said Henrik Selin, director of intercultural dialogue at the Swedish Institute.