FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Swedish Police, Racism and Resistance

by DAVID GROBGELD

Sweden is often depicted in the international media as a bastion of pluralism, tolerance and progress. This image stands in stark contrast to the lived realities of marginalized people in Sweden who face an increasingly violent and desperate state.

Reports of inner border controls in the Stockholm public transportation system have caused anger, fear and outrage. This inner border controls campaign, bearinng the Orwellian designation REVA (“Rättssäkert och effektivt verkställighetsarbete,” meaning “Legally Certain and Efficient Enforcement”), uses disguised police officers to perform ID checks of people they think might be in Sweden “illegally.” This “might,” based on little more than apparent ethnicity, has severely curtailed the freedom of movement of Stockholm’s people of color.

The ID checks in the Stockholm subway are only one aspect of an intensified war on undocumented immigrants. REVA plagues people of color all over the country, especially those without documentation. In the Skåne region, deportations have risen 25% after only a few months of the project being active. Many of the stories — for example one about children too scared to go see the psychologist trying treating their PTSD, because police were staking out the psychologist’s office — have caused public outcry. Police spokespeople, confronted with the barbarity of these scare tactics, keep to the same tired mantras of “rule of law,” “following orders,” and “democratic mission.” The message to activists and citizens is clear: “If you don’t like it, vote for another ruler in the next election.”

Now comes the revelation that the in Skåne have an extensive register of 4,029 Romani people. The document titled “Travelers,” makes no reference to criminal activities, has the shape of a huge family tree and includes not only people long dead but over one thousand children.

Additionally a whistle-blower from within the Skåne police department confirms that the document was known internally as a “Gypsy Register.” Despite the overwhelming evidence that police are engaging in large scale registration on grounds of ethnicity, that many of those listed have no connection with Skåne, live across the country or have no association with people who have criminal records, the police dismiss the allegations and insist the document was nothing more than a register of criminal people and their associates used for fighting crime in Skåne. The only common denominator for people on the list is being or being married to a Romani person.

Philosopher Karim Jebari argues, backed up by empirical research, that for marginalized people in Sweden — the poor, the homeless, people of color, users of illicit drugs, the mentally ill – Sweden is a police state since whatever their formal democratic rights, they have no de facto rights in their encounters with police.

Indeed it is striking how agents of the state hypocritically refer to the “democratic process” and “legal procedure” as the only legitimate means of fighting racism, authoritarianism, deportations, institutionalized violence and power abuses, while breaking the state’s own laws through blatant racial profiling and registration — infractions that then invariably disappear in the police’s investigations of itself. The verdict is always the same: “We did nothing wrong.”

Again and again, the police face allegations of racism, brutality and misconduct. And, again and again, we are told to be patient, to be complacent and to vote the problem away. As an anarchist, I believe we should reject the notion that the state is the only legitimate means of social agency and progress. States have shown from their inception that they are unable and have little incentive to combat these manifestations of brutality that fly in the face what “democracy” is supposed to stand for. We need to stop giving them second chances.

Does this mean that all reforms are pointless? No. There is sometimes progress as a result of social pressure and opportunist or actually caring politicians. But all these small steps are negligible compared to the unparalleled benefits that would come from a move toward a culture where calling the police is not the go-to solution when faced with a conflict, where communities started taking safety and solidarity in their own hands and where voting is not seen as the central responsibility we have towards other people. A move, in short, toward anarchy.

This is why it is invigorating to see some of the ways ordinary people in Sweden have responded to the racist ID checks and deportations. Countless users on Facebook and Twitter are updating others on the whereabouts of police. Organizations such as No Human is Illegal, Action Against Deportations and the feminist and anti-racist Ain’t I a Woman? have pushed on in their practical and activist work providing undocumented immigrants with housing and subsidence, hiding them from the state and bringing their stories to the eyes of the public. As a result of the huge negative public reaction, the police announced that the subway ID controls would cease. But other aspects of REVA are still active. Children and adults are still being deported, often to dangerous circumstances and sometimes to countries they’ve never even visited. And the police responsible for the registration of Romani people are still wearing their uniforms — the struggle continues.

David Grobgeld is a contributing author at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail