With the highly anticipated Swedish election looming next weekend, and the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party having surged in the polls (until the last few days), the timing of tonight's gang riots is only likely to enrage voters even more.
Up to 22 cars were torched or damaged across southern Sweden Friday morning, weeks after dozens of cars were set on fire using molotov cocktails.
Police in the southern city of Trollhättan have opened an investigation into one fire which left up to 10 cars damaged, according to local news outlet Aftonbladet. Authorities were also called to the Kronegården around 3:30 a.m. to put out a "fully-fledged" fire which had fully engulfed three cars before spreading further.
"It was a fully-fledged fire in three cars and then spread to the fire related cars," said Johan Ytterberg, internal officer at Norra Älvsborg's Rescue Service Federation.
According to the police, four cars were totally burned out and six cars, which were nearby, were injured by the fire.
The police have written a notification of gross damage, but no person is arrested for the crime. -Aftonbladet
Two weeks ago, we reported that multiple gangs of masked youths rampaging across three major Swedish cities, setting cars on fire in what appeared to be a coordinated action.
Multiple arson attacks on vehicles in #Gothenburg tonight— Intelligence Fusion (@IntellFusion) August 13, 2018
- An estimated 15 cars alleged to have been torched
- Youths with molotov cocktails are reported to have set fire to the vehicles
- Other arson attacks reported in Trollhättan
- Ongoing#Sweden #Göteborg #svpol #breaking pic.twitter.com/ygKsdaW17N
As The Daily Mail reported at the time, police said they were dealing with multiple fires as dramatic footage showed youths targeting vehicles in a shopping centre and hospital car park at Frölunda Torg, south-west of Gothenburg.
Videon som visar Sveriges förfall med bilbränderna på Frölunda torg i Göteborg togs ner på Facebook efter att den på en timme fått över 150 000 visningar! 🤬— Alternativ för Sverige (@AfS_riks) August 13, 2018
RETWEETA SÅ ATT ALLA FÅR SE VAD SOM PÅGÅR I SVERIGE! 🔥🇸🇪#AfS2018 #svpol #val2018 #FrölundaTorg pic.twitter.com/7jtNPVC8FH
There were also reports of young people setting cars on fire in Hjällbo in the north of Gothenburg and further reports of fires in Trollhättan, where some of Friday morning's torchings took place.
Photos from Gothenburg in Sweden right now.— PeterSweden (@PeterSweden7) August 13, 2018
It's a war zone. pic.twitter.com/UTl9m3JhXV
Frölunda: A group of about 6-8 masked youth fires and throws stones. 31 cars have burned and in addition to these 35 cars are injured. Nobody is arrested.
Nordost: A group of about 8-10 young people throws stones and fires. 15 cars have burned. Nobody is arrested.
Trollhättan: A larger group of about 30-40 young people throws stones and fires. Six cars have burned and another few cars must be damaged. Here roads have been blocked by youngsters and they have even thrown stones against the police and their vehicles. At the moment, identification of young people is ongoing.
When most fires started within a short period of time, it can not be excluded that there is a connection between the fires, the case will be investigated. Polish patrons will remain in the affected areas as long as it is considered necessary.
It is no surprise then, as we noted previously, judging by the recent polls, the rise of extreme populist groups in Sweden is accelerating fast.
As Reuters reports, dozens of people have been killed in the past two years in attacks in the capital Stockholm and other big cities by gangs that are mostly from run-down suburbs dominated by immigrants.
With public calls growing for tougher policies on crime and immigration, support has risen for the ironically named, Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots that wants to freeze immigration and to hold a referendum on Sweden’s membership of the European Union.
Their worried mainstream rivals have started moving to the right on crime and immigration to try to counter the Sweden Democrats’ threat in the Sept. 9 election. But so far, they are playing into the hands of the far-right.
“Right now they (mainstream parties) are competing over who can set out the most restrictive policies,” said Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin, whose Green Party is part of a minority government led by the Social Democratic Party.
“It clearly benefits the Sweden Democrats.”
Opinion polls put the Sweden Democrats on about 20 percent support, up from the 13 percent of votes they secured in the 2014 election and the 5.7 percent which saw them enter parliament for the first time in 2010.
The Sweden Democrats’ rise on the back of anti-immigration sentiment mirrors gains for right-wing, populist and anti-establishment parties in other European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.
The Sweden Democrats still trail the Social Democratic Party but has overtaken the main opposition Moderates in many polls. All mainstream parties have ruled out working with them.
But they could emerge from the election as kingmakers, and a strong election showing could force the next government to take their views into consideration when shaping policy.
Their policies include a total freeze on asylum seekers and accepting refugees only from Sweden’s neighbors in the future. They also want tougher penalties for crime and more powers for police, and say tax cuts and higher spending on welfare could be funded by cutting the immigration budget.
Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democratic party, has described the situation as “pretty fantastic”.
“We are dominating the debate even though no one will talk to us,” he told party members.
The Sweden Democrats have succeeded in linking the two in the minds of many voters, even though official statistics show no correlation between overall levels of crime and immigration. However, while the government denies it has lost control but Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has not ruled out sending the military into problem areas.
“Sweden is going down a more right-wing path,” said Nick Aylott, a political scientist at Sodertorn University said. “It is almost impossible to avoid according some sort of influence to a party with around 20 percent of the vote.”
Trump was right after all.