Friday, May 24, 2013

Stockholm is burning - back to our future

This past week, following a police shooting, a civilized Sweden erupted into days of rioting from the immigrant suburbs of their capital city. In fact, streets are burning now as I write this.

In 2005 this happened in the underprivileged immigrant suburb of Chichy, Paris. In 2011 it started in Tottenham, the immigrant suburbs of London following (yet again) a police shooting. In every case a police related death of a local resident sparked the riots.

Is the European experiment unravelling when it's immigrant suburbs live such a fragile thread away from chaos. Is European immigration really that different from the US and Canada?

Canada has immigration rates higher than European cities. Yet Canada's occasional hockey riots or student tuition protests seem petty by comparison and - forgive my petulance - more the stuff of privileged millennials. Recent Canadian First Nations native protests have far more legitimacy in my biased view (though native people are neither immigrants nor suburban).

Swedish cops in Husby, Stockholm. Photo by Johan Nilsson, Getty Images

Richard Florida has been prophesizing about new urban geographies following the Great Recession - especially the suburban poor. I don't think he expected the explosion to start in Europe, and certainly not in peaceful Sweden.

The European conflagrations are not your typical Mayday riots spawned by rabble-rousing anarchist-communist radicals. Suburban immigrant riots, police shootings, and race issues are a very different thing. In so many ways it reminds me of the urban American riots during the turbulent 1960s, except this time it is suburban and immigrant-based.

I wonder if suburban poverty and crime in North America will take us back to that future?