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The Summer of Resistance and the Swedish Model

The following text is based on a discussion held at an info meeting about Gothenburg and Genoa prisoners in March 2003.

Background: The Swedish Model

Sweden has long been regarded as a model social democratic society; where an extensive welfare state has existed parallel with a highly developed capitalistic economy. This peculiar situation has been the result of a long tradition of cooperation and collaboration between the antagonistic parties, namely the Social Democratic Workers Party, its closely allied Lands Organisation union and the economic forces of capitalism with the industrial giants ABB, Ericsson, SAAB and Volvo at the forefront. The state and national ideology is based on the thought that through dialogue and understanding, all conflicts, no matter how large or small, can be amicably solved.


This approach of amicable cooperation and collaboration was also applied during the planning stages of the EU Top meeting held in the second Swedish city of Gothenburg in June of 2001. Through dialogue between representatives of the state and the globalisation movement, the riots of Seattle and Prague were hoped to be avoided. The local city government in Gothenburg launched "The Gothenburg Spirit" as a guiding premise in this process. In return for helping with the planning for, and accommodation of, the thousands of activists that were converging on Gothenburg, the city government felt as if it could expect peace and tranquillity in payment.

The Swedish police however, had a different idea of how to deal with the situation. In line with their longstanding strategy and tactics of dealing with radical politics, they separately forged plans for hard-line and definite "preventive" measures. These were not necessarily forged with the prevention of the immediate situation in Gothenburg in mind, but rather preventive in relation to future expressions of radical politics by making an example of the current one. In Sweden, as well as in the EU as a whole.

Three Days that Shook Europe

The events that occurred during the EU Top meeting in Gothenburg are well documented. By the huge mainstream media presence that was in the city covering the meeting itself, as well as by the globalisation movement's own media channels. A short recap follows. Unrest began on Thursday the 14 of June. The Swedish police forces initiated a massive "pre-emptive" storming of a school building being used by activists as a convergence centre. This police action lead to riots in both the vicinity of the school and in connection with a demonstration held against the American President George W. Bush, who was also a guest at the meeting. On Friday morning the 15 of June, a manifestation was held in conjunction with the opening of the EU Top meeting. This manifestation then turned into a symbolic demonstration that attempted to march to the conference facility where the EU Top meeting was being held. After a brief march of a few hundred metres, the demo was stopped by defensive lines of police and subsequently attacked by the same police force. This police action resulted in extensive riots that culminated in the complete destruction of Gothenburg's main shopping boulevard. It also supplied spectacular TV pictures of a literally helpless police force being pounded by stone-throwing activists.

Later the same day, in conjunction with a Reclaim the City street party, the police again attacked the gathering of several thousand participants. In addition to activists, a large contingent of local youth that were attracted by the TV pictures of the previous riots, were also in attendance. The police attack, and the inevitable riots they caused, culminated in three people being shot by the police with live ammunition. One of the victims was seriously injured and in danger of death for several days.

On Saturday the 16 of June the day began with a large demonstration (by Swedish standards) consisting of circa 25, 000 people. During the demo, the police held a low profile after the preceding night's shootings and the demo ended without incident. Later that same day, however, the police stormed yet another school being used as activists and surrounded a large anti-police violence demonstration, subsequently interning large numbers of people presumably identified from the previous days riots.

Three Days that Shook Sweden

The result of these events was traumatic. It was traumatic for the Swedish state. It was traumatic for the Swedish people. It was traumatic for the city of Gothenburg. And it was especially traumatic for the many young activists participating in the counter summit's activities. The TV pictures of "the black block" throwing stones, battling with the police and vandalising the city were imprinted into the minds of the Swedish public. And this created an explanation - and scapegoat - for the trauma. I this context it should be noted that Sweden has never had riots of the likes that regularly occur in other European cities. And live ammunition hadn't been used on Swedish demonstrators since a strike in 1931. A week after the Gothenburg meeting at a meeting in Brussels, the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson described the globalisation movement, and those activists who defended themselves against the police aggression in Gothenburg, as "fascists". The TV pictures, the prime minister's comments and the general public's disbelief at the level of destruction caused in Gothenburg were all used to brand the radical and extra- parliamentary left as an official "enemy of the state". And, in desperate attempts to save their own reputations, much of the established left, from environmental groups to parliamentary parties, immediately distanced themselves from the "stone throwers", as well as from all forms of "political violence". The radical left, and especially those groups that did not actively distance themselves from the self-defensive violence of activists, were immediately and effectively isolated.

In the following 18 months this isolation was deepened and solidified. As a result, many well functioning political coalitions and networks from the pre-Gothenburg era, where the radical left had influence far greater than their actual size warranted, crumbled. In addition, the isolation of the radical left enabled the judicial processes that were awaiting many young activists in the Gothenburg aftermath to continue practically unquestioned and unnoticed, no mater how exaggerated the sentences of how flimsy the evidence.

Kangaroo Courts

The judicial aftermath of Gothenburg bears all the signs and indications of nothing less than political trails where all the basic guarantees of a representative democracy and its legal system were bypassed. Arrested defendants, in some cases minors, were held in isolation for extensive periods of time, in some cases up to three months. Defence advocates were denied access to pertinent information for their client's cases. Important evidence disappeared. Identical crimes were judged differently according to the defendant's political opinions and when the court cases were held. People were sentenced solely on witness accounts from policeman, even when these accounts were contradicted by other evidence and even when the police witnesses themselves provided contradictory accounts of events. The political message from the Swedish state was clear; this type of resistance was not to be tolerated.

The sentences for rioting, which in the limited extent that rioting had previously actually occurred in Sweden, had more often than not resulted in no more than probation. After Gothenburg, punishments were suddenly set at two years for the throwing of singular cobblestones. In one relatively well publicised case, 8 youths were sentenced to sentences of up to four and half years imprisonment for sending SMS messages informing people on the streets of what was occurring in other parts of the city. Not only is this an activity that regularly occurs at all demonstrations in Sweden but, the information was almost identical to that available through the mainstream media, radio and the Internet.

The foundation for all judicial argumentation in all of the Gothenburg cases was that the riots were well organised and planned in advance. They were also regarded as being different from previous rioting charges in Sweden because of the "fact" that they were directed against the EU Top meeting, and were therefore "crimes against democracy". These "facts" were used as justification for the extraordinary severe punishments.

These court cases are still continuing, and continuing without being questioned. Many of the societal forces that could have questioned the judicial procedures, and the questionable legal security they provided, were effectively silenced by a long-lasting medial and political campaign directed against the radical left. As this campaign continued and gained a momentum of its own, the media was unable to question it own exaggerations that it engaged in, for instance, during their reporting during the actual EU Top meeting. The social democratic party and the state, including the police, had a vested interest in continually propagating their explanation of the riots. The established left had to protect their own reputations in the face of public outrage and the legal community, because of how the system of appointments in both the judicial and university system work, remained silent for fear of their own careers. It should also be noted that there were, of course, exceptions to these rules, but that they were either very limited or immediately marginalized. Add to this the occurrences of 9-11 and the following hysteria and discussions regarding anti-terrorism and a situation of virtual passivity in regards to the Gothenburg processes was created.

It should also be noted that while more than 70 individuals have been tried for "crimes" in connection with the EU Top meeting (and more are to be expected), not a single police officer has been sentenced. And this despite well documented accounts of police exceeding their jurisdiction, using extensive violence well beyond that which the specific situations demanded, and completely innocent people being denied their "democratic" rights guaranteed them by the Swedish constitution. In the public discussion these, in many cases undisputed facts, have simply been linked to a strong tradition of camaraderie and a code-of-honour that prevail within the police forces. The fact that the police themselves investigate claims of crimes committed by their members hasn't helped the matter. However, in order to appease complaints directed towards this factual situation, this peculiar internal investigation practice is currently the subject of yet another internal investigation.

The following short story is an example of how self-censorship functions in the Swedish society following Gothenburg. At one point in the autumn of 2001, video pictures of several police beating a young man bloody in Gothenburg - in the classic "Rodney King circle-of-pigs" style - were shown on the evening TV news. The sheer level of violence in the situation caused an immediate uproar amongst the Swedish general public. The next day, however, the Gothenburg police responded to the incident by simply saying that the young man in the pictures, had previous to his beating, kicked a policeman. He was therefore welcomed to "come forward" and lodge a complaint against his attackers, as the police wanted to "speak" to him anyway... The incident was never again mentioned. End of story.

Independent Reports

Several independent organisations have compiled reports about the occurrences in Gothenburg. Most notably amongst these are Amnesty International and The Helsinki Committee. All were quite critical of the police's actions in Gothenburg and their role in the following riots, as well as of the aftermath of the judicial proceedings. However, none of these reports received much public attention and none were taken too seriously. In addition, no completely "independent" report on the judicial proceedings has been, nor will be, commissioned by the Swedish state. The latter is explained by the argumentation that the "political community" (i.e. the government) should not interfere with the independent nature of the judicial system.

In the beginning of 2003, a long awaited (and long delayed because of the ongoing judicial procedures) report on the occurrences in Gothenburg, ordered by the ruling social democrats and lead by a former Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, was released. It can be regarded as an attempt to "heal the wounds" caused by Gothenburg. It was appeasing to the NGOs involved in the Gothenburg counter summit by placing a great deal of the blame for the occurrences in Gothenburg on a poorly organised and poorly prepared police force. And it appeased the state with conclusions that the police should be given increased resources to deal with "similar" situations in the future. Currently, the Swedish police force is already employing these increased resources in the form of new, non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray.

Another major "conclusion" of the report was that a new law, forbidding masks to be worn at demonstrations, should be implemented.

The judicial proceedings

As mentioned above, the judicial proceedings in the Gothenburg aftermath have lived a life of their own. Sentencing was increased dramatically, group responsibility has been introduced as an accepted means of judgement in cases where specifically guilty parties, for whatever reasons, could not be identified and, the implications of evidence requirements in order to prove guilt of recent UN and EU-wide anti-terrorism legislation has been all to evident.

The Swedish court system has two levels of appeals courts. The lower local courts, located in Gothenburg, dealt out the harshest sentences. The next level of regional courts, also located in Gothenburg, upheld the sentencing, but in many cases mildly reduced the punishments. The Swedish High Court, located in Stockholm, refused for an inexcusably long time to review a single case. When it finally did review cases, more than a year after the first sentences became legally binding, their judgements were somewhat contradictory. But, basically the High Courts concluded that the police actions on Thursday caused the first wave of riots and that these were not directed towards the EU Top meeting as it had not yet begun. Therefore people sentenced for these crimes should receive milder punishments. Unfortunately many people had already received harsh punishments and the Swedish judicial system does not provide for de-facto changes in already binding sentences. With regards to the riots on Friday, the High Courts upheld the lower courts judgements that these were well planned and organised and that they were to be regarded as "crimes against democracy". However, they did reduce the punishments somewhat, from two years for singular stone throwing to nine months. However, many of the sentences had, again, already become legally binding.

The judicial proceedings are currently in their third phase. The first phase consisted of cases against foreign and Swedish citizens arrested ion Gothenburg. These individuals received harsh sentences and, in the case of the foreigners, served them immediately. The second phase consisted of investigations and trails of Swedish citizens identified in Gothenburg but not arrested there. In these cases large amounts of video and photographic materials were used to identify people. Investigators employed a software program developed for use in child pornography cases. The software allows for tiny visual details to be identified and then large amounts of video footage to be searched through and matches to these specific elements made. In this way, people could be identified by small things, such as the type or brand name of shoes or clothing worn, patches on clothing or of other unique and identifiable elements. When house searches against suspects occurred, these identifiable articles were searched for, as well as other "compromising" evidence, such as political literature. Many of these cases were completed before the High court passed their judgements, however not all of them. The third phase is currently in full swing and it entails foreign citizens identified in Gothenburg, but not arrested there.

These cases are of particular interest for at least two reasons. The first is that many of the people under investigation in Germany, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Finland were not physically identified in Gothenburg. This means that they have been identified solely by distinguishing characteristics found in video footage, which in turn suggests and extensive collaboration between different national police forces. Not to mention a large EU-wide database of possible "suspects". Publicly in Sweden, it is only known that members of the American secret service were present in Gothenburg (because of George W. Bush's presence), but it may now be assumed that police observers from at least the other Scandinavian countries were also present and working in Gothenburg. The second point of interest is the level of punishment of the Swedish courts. As the first German sentence has recently been reached, it can be assumed that an attempt to harmonize EU sentencing in cases of rioting directed against "democratic" institutions (in accordance with EU anti- terrorism legislation) is well underway.

Finally, there is an assumption that a fourth and final phase has yet to be begun. This is based on known, but as yet unpublicised, investigations of individuals in Sweden. These are individuals that may have appeared in other investigation documents or have been mentioned by investigators themselves, but have yet to be accused of any crime. It is also based on observations of the activities of the Italian police in the aftermath in conjunction with the Genoa G8 meeting riots. The assumption is that supposed "organisers" of the riots against the "democratic" institution of the EU in Gothenburg will be tried for their organisational activities prior to the EU Top meeting. This assumption can explain the Swedish High Court's judgements concerning the Friday riots in Gothenburg as well-planned and organised. If this assumption proves to be true, it will undoubtedly incorporate EU anti-terrorism legislation and be used as an effective measure against all future "organised" radical left activities.

Summary and Practical Assistance

The Summer of Resistance 2001 can be regarded as the culmination of the globalisation movement and its demonstrations that began in Seattle 1999. The judicial aftermath of Gothenburg can in turn be regarded as an attempt to criminalize all future resistance to globalisation. An attempt that has received a boost from both the events of 9-11 and the EU police forces' attempts to harmonize their international collaboration.

In Sweden there are currently a large number of people serving long prison sentences. And many more are waiting to serve their sentences. There are also several trails waiting to be carried out in other Scandinavian and European countries. All of these political prisoners need our solidarity and those individuals currently under investigation or awaiting trial need our support and assistance.


Information can be attained from the following sources:

Gothenburg Prisoner Solidarity Group.
c/o Syndikalistiskt Forum
Box 7267
SE-402 35 Gothenburg

Financial support can be sent to:
Swedish PostGirot account:
276 02-2
Account holder:
"Nisse Lätts Minnesfond"
Label the payment: "Gothenburg Solidarity"
PostGirot has the SWIFT code:
and address:
SE-105 00 Stockholm, Sweden

Please visit the following website for a list of the Swedish embassies and consulates across the world: http://www.utrikes.regeringen.se/inenglish/missions/index.htm

Information on the situation in Germany can be obtained from:

Berliner Ermittlungs-Ausschuss (EA)
EA Berlin
Gneisenaustraße 2a
10961 Berlin,
Tel: +49 30 6922222
or the Berliner Soli-Treffen für Göteborg:

gipfelsoli infogruppe
gipfelsoli [at] nadir.org
gipfelsoli mailinglist subscribe - unsubscribe

Information on the situation in Holland can be obtained from:


Other information in English can be found at: