On Thursday and Friday, Swedish cities saw cars set on fire and police injured as a result of rioting by people opposed to demonstrations by Qur’an-burning politician Rasmus Paludan.
On Thursday, riots and violence took place in the Skäggetorp area of the city of Linköping ahead of a demonstration by Danish anti-Islam politician Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Stram Kurs party.
The violent riots led to at least three police officers being injured after being hit with stones and rocks and several vehicles set on fire, including a police car, broadcaster SVT reports.
Police vans are on fire as counter-protesters react during a counter-protest in the park Sveaparken in Orebro, south-centre Sweden on April 15th, 2022, where Danish party Stram Kurs had permission for a square meeting on Good Friday. (Photo: KICKI NILSSON/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)
“This has been a serious situation. It was chaotic at the scene with several hundred people on the scene,” police spokesman Johnny Gustavsson commented. Several rioters are believed to have stolen police uniforms and other equipment from police vehicles.
“It was a violent and chaotic situation today. There have also been burglaries in the cars and bags of police equipment have been stolen,” Gustavsson added.
Rioting also broke out in the city of Norrköping due to another Stram Kurs demonstration that also did not end up taking place. Around 15 cars were set on fire in the city and police were also attacked.
Swedish National Police Chief Anders Thornberg commented on Thursday’s rioting saying, “What happened in Linköping and Norrköping is completely reprehensible and will never be accepted. I have made sure that the employees who have been injured have been taken care of.”
Police officers react during a counter-protest in the park Sveaparken in Orebro, south-centre Sweden on April 15th, 2022, where Danish party Stram Kurs had permission for a square meeting on Good Friday. (Photo: KICKI NILSSON/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)
“We live in a democratic society and one of the most important tasks of the police is to ensure that people can use their constitutionally protected rights to demonstrate and express their opinion. The police should not choose who has that right but always intervene if a crime occurs. Targeting police and police equipment is an attack on both the rule of law and democracy,” Thornberg added.
On Friday, Paludan and his group burned a copy of the Islamic Qur’an in the no-go Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby and violence soon broke out. Police were attacked with stones and rocks, leading to one officer becoming injured.
“At first I had information that one was injured, then I got information that no one was injured. There are two police officers who have been hit by something and suffered pain, but have not been so badly injured that they have had to seek medical attention. They could continue to work after this,” Daniel Wikdahl of the Stockholm police said.
The riots are not the first in Sweden in reaction to the actions of Paludan and Stram Kurs. In August of 2020, around 300 residents of the multicultural city of Malmo took part in riots that saw violence against police and cars set on fire after activists had burned a Qur’an.
Later that year, a group of fifteen Muslim congregations called on the Swedish government to outlaw the burning of religious texts like the Qur’an.
“We do not want it to be legal in Sweden to burn holy scriptures such as the Qur’an, the Bible, and the Jewish scriptures and at the same time for it to be forbidden to mock the different religions,” Rinkeby’s Imam Hussein Farah Warsame said.
Following an investigation into the Qur’an burning by Paludan and his followers, a Swedish prosecutor determined that burning copies of the book was not in itself illegal and did not levy any criminal charges against the Dane 0r Stram Kurs activists.