At first glance, the pristine nordic wonderland of Stockholm may seem vastly distant from the beleaguered cities of the U.S.. But in May, the suburb of Husby erupted in a scene of chaos that bore a striking resemblance to urban “disturbances” that have become a perennial fixture on the American urban landscape. The media showed images of burning cars and angry youth; but their actions, sparked by a lethal police shooting, spoke to a much deeper violence young people have faced at the hands of the police and the state. As we saw in the L.A. riots, or Watts, or Haymarket, the roots of the flaming cars and broken shop windows could be traced to a Stockholm’s history of police brutality, economic inequality and racial and ethnic divides, which keep immigrant families and youth segregated and alienated.
Artist and activist Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panthers (and longtime ally of CultureStrike), has reached out in solidarity with Sweden’s youth. His video message describes the shared struggles that cross national boundaries and resonate over generations. It’s an important statement for migrant rights movements around the world:
I’ve been trying to keep informed much as possible regarding the recent social unrest in Sweden.
As I become more informed it appears many of the same social concerns that continue to be neglected here in the US appear to be of the same root nature as in Sweden’s under served or not served at all poor communities being psychologically abused by rampant institutionalized racism, and the many other unaddressed quality of life concerns the communities have.
When poor communities are put up against the wall and held hostage for decades by neglect that becomes the smoldering reality which has become the spark which has ignited the rebellions in Sweden. Now the blame game has begun turning friends, allies, associate and comrades against one another playing right into the extremist scheme of things to divide and conquer in the attempt to deflect attention from the primary causes, plenty of problems, and no future for the poor communities.
My heart felt condolences to the wife whose husband was murdered by the police when there call was only a request for help.
That valid request turned into a nightmare and ignited the many decades of frustrations and neglect that imploded into the destruction of community.
It is not friends, allies, associate nor comrades now persecuting each other who are to blame for the Swedish rebellions but the frustration borne from a long train of abuses and neglect from an unjust system which has never shown equal respect for all of it citizens. You must join together to correct injustice, heal the community, and educate the young people to the real power they have because they are the future right now.
- The Struggles Continues,
All Power to the People.
former Revolutionary Artist, Minister of Culture,
Black Panther Party, USA, 1967-1981
Fundamentally, fighting for the rights of immigrants is about militating against lines of race and nationality that keep our communities locked down by fear and silence. The Husby riots were a cry of outrage in search of a unified voice.
For more on race relations and anti-immigrant sentiment in Sweden, check out our feature on an earlier crisis in Malmo, featuring the photography of Joseph Rodriguez. And read more about the issue from Swedish author Jonas Hassen Khemiri, who has spoken out against the racial profiling of youth, and the campaigns led by the Husby-based youth group Megafonen.