“They’re not real criminals,” says Ali Riva who heads up “Tenstas Future” – an organization aimed at getting teenagers off the streets at night and out of trouble.
“When people have no money in their pockets they tend to do stupid things,” he says.
Riva was responding to comments by Sweden’s integration minister who blamed the street violence on criminal elements.
Originally from Somalia, and a Tensta resident for more than 20 years, he set up Tenstas Future two years ago following a similar explosion of violence.
It’s just one of many grassroots organizations helping young unemployed adults and teenager with studies, job hunting and free time activities.
“We’ve been able to cut down on cars being burned out, and on break ins – there are a lot of different organizations working with this now,” he says.
But, he says, the recent explosion of violence shows that it’s not been enough.
“I’m very worried, many young people here feel like they have no future. There’s at least 2,000 in this area who are completely out of the system – not in jobs, not in education and not getting welfare benefits.”
That’s a view shared by a local police chief who told Dagens Nyheter newspaper this week that the government’s integration policy has failed.
The leader of the district council, Ann-Katrin Åslund denies that the violence is an outburst of anger from a disaffected youth.
“The summer is coming, it’s warm outside and school is ending and there are youngster who want excitement – and for people to write about Tensta,” she said.
Åslund, from the Liberal Party, agrees with the government’s critics that more education and better job opportunities are the key to preventing further rioting. But she lays the blame for the slow pace of progress firmly with previous Social Democrat administrations.
Jobs not welfare
“When people arrived to Sweden we traditionally had this idea that we had to take care of them with social security and so on. But that's not the right approach - they want to have a job just like you and me,” she said.
“That’s how we’re working today, getting people into jobs. But it will take time as we have a legacy to deal with,” she said, adding that the council has promised summer jobs to every young person who wants one.
Walking around Tensta you hear many different views of why the trouble broke out now. Unemployment, good weather, boredom or even plain old mischief.
But few call the rioters criminals.
And everyone agrees that the areas nearly 50 percent unemployment rate has got to come down to give the younger generation hope for the future.
Reporter: Tom Sullivan. firstname.lastname@example.org