On the evening of 28th of November 2009 a building called Utkanten in Malmö, Sweden, was raided by many Police officers in full riot gear and some extra personnel in civilian clothes. The reason for the raid was, according to the Police, a suspicion that someone was selling alcohol to the public without the proper license.
The Police published a press release about the bust here:
In the above text, the Police says that they raided an illegal club. In the bust, they say, they found 43 cases of beer, 39 bottles of strong liquor, 66 litres of wine and that they also found a small number of what they call bombs (In Swedish the word they use is "slangbomber", roughly translated as "hose bombs" and not pipe bombs as some people have reported), some cans of pepper spray, a high-speed slingshot, some green lasers and some pieces of a Swedish Police uniform.
Two people were committed for seeming to be under the influence of narcotics and one person was arrested for some unknown reason.
The press release also say that the Police alerted the fire department and that the department did a preliminary review of the premises, with a new complete review planned for later that week. The review was done on Tuesday, December 1 2009 with a small number of rather trivial remarks.
What the press release doesn't mention is that the Police raided the entire building, even other floors. They also raided the Swedish hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen on the second floor. From the hackerspace they took almost all the computers, including the WiFi router and some other technical equipment.
A lot of news about this incident has been published in Swedish, but since the hackerspace phenomenon is international, it is natural that this is of interest to an international audience. Many of the international reports I've seen are misinformed, likely becuase the authors don't understand Swedish. This is my attempt to set the record at least a bit more straight. Comments by e-mail are welcome. Send them to mc at an easily guessed domain.
Full disclosure: I'm a member of the hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen. I'm not a very active member and I wasn't present during the bust, but I'm still upset, as you can imagine. My reports here are based on public sources and I try to link to each one.
If you don't know what a hackerspace is, please visit
or read the Wikipedia article on hackerspaces.
Utkanten is an entire building rented by an organisation with over a thousand members. Many different organisations and less formal groups use the premises. A lot of people visit the building every day. It is not a squat, as some reports have stated. The entire building is legally rented.
There are many different rooms in the building with different purposes. For instance, there is a small concert hall, a bicycle repair shop, a gym, a large kitchen (free vegan food served every Monday evening!), et cetera, et cetera.
One of the organisations using the building is the hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen, Swedish for "The Research Department". Forskningsavdelningen has a room on the second floor. Web site here (mostly Swedish):
with some more information regarding the bust here (in English):
Another group using Utkanten is Malmö Hardcore. Malmö HC arranges punk concerts about once a month. There are usually posters all over the central city telling people about the next concert at Utkanten. It's not a secret club.
According to Malmö HC's posters there was a concert on November 28th. That concert is, I presume, what the Police calls "an illegal club" in their press release.
On the other hand, it seems from the press release and later information from Police spokespersons that the Police think the entire building is the "illegal club", which I think shows either seriously bad intelligence on their part, or, perhaps more likely, that they don't want to tell the public the real reason for the bust.
Utkanten's web site is here (in Swedish):
There's an introduction text in English:
This is what the local paper Sydsvenskan has published so far about the incident, in cronological order:
2. The paper reports that computers and other electronic equipment has been taken from the hackerspace. The paper's position seems to be that the hackerspace is clearly something else than the concert downstairs.
3. The paper interviews people from Utkanten and the hackerspace. The suspicion from people at Utkanten is that the Police wanted to hit the explicitly Libertarian Socialist Utkanten because of the upcoming climate meeting COP15 (starting the week after the bust, just across the bridge in Copenhagen). The Police, they say, might be worried about what activists are planning and decided to have a look at Utkanten, taking everything that might have been used for planning.
4. The paper has been talking to a spokesperson from the Police, who says it's unlikely the computers taken from the hackerspace will be given back any time soon. The Police says that they found a very specialized antenna and they think it has been used for computer intrusions. As far as I can tell from the article, the only thing pointing to any computer crimes is the antenna. Mind you, a WiFi antenna is legal in Sweden, as far as I know.
The Police also say they found key copying machines and blank keys and they say they think it might be preparation for Grand Theft. Mind you, it's not illegal in Sweden to own key copying machines nor is it illegal to own blank keys, except for a limited set of very specialized keys. The article doesn't mention anything about any specialized keys.
The official press release from Utkanten society is here:
There are no permanent links, I'm afraid.
In the press release they say that the "hose bombs" the Police found were legally obtained firecrackers. Why they were stored somewhere at Utkanten is anybody's guess. It's huge. There are lots of people coming through each day.
The alcohol was, according to the Utkanten press release, for the band members and it was locked away when the Police raided the place, hence not for sale during the concert. That is, this was not an illegal club according to Utkanten spokespersons.
The bands playing at the Malmö HC events, they say, play only for travel money and for the private party after the concert. The stored alcohol was meant for the bands in this and upcoming concerts.
There is an official comment on Forskningsavdelningen's web site about the key copying machines the Police seized:
This basically says that "No, Forskningsavdelningen was not preparing Grand Theft" and goes on to explain about the noble art of lockpicking and that it is perfectly legal in Sweden to copy and manufacture keys and that it is a favourite pastime amongst certain technically inclined people, i.e. people who visit hackerspaces. They also link to the The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers in the Netherlands:
Why was there a major force (some say ~40 officers) with riot gear on a bust on an illegal club? There must be easier ways to find out if someone was selling alcohol! On the other hand, even if the alcohol was for sale, does that really warrant this kind of force?
If I am to believe what others have reported, there were about 40 people attending the concert when the Police raided the place. There were six people upstairs in the hackerspace. Does this make it so dangerous for the Police that they need 40 riot Police officers? I haven't heard of anything like this before against illegal clubs in Sweden.
There are several well known illegal clubs in Malmö, with no other activity than the illegal club, but only a small punk concert at Utkanten was recently raided and none has been raided in such a force before. Why specifically target such a small concert?
Witnesses at Forskningsavdelningen say on the hackerspace web site that there were IT technicians and people from the communications company Relacom present with the Police. Why, if this was just a bust on an illegal club?
Regardless if you believe that the alcohol taken by the Police was for sale during the concert or not, it is worth noting that this alcohol was probably the property of the group arranging the concert. They have little to do with the hackerspace upstairs or Utkanten per se. They are just one of many groups at Utkanten.
My guess is that any weapons found during the raid were found on individuals attending the concert. Seems likely, doesn't it? I mean, cans of pepper spray? A slingshot? For instance, I know several people (mostly women, I'm afraid) who have a can of pepper spray on them while walking alone during the night. Don't you?
One of the most disturbing things with the bust is that the Police seized many of the hackerspace computers and a few personal laptops! The Police have stated that they might not return them for a long time.
The Swedish Police have a bad track record when it comes to returning seized computers. In the well-known case of the raid against the Internet service provider and co-location company PRQ they took all computers and routers, when in fact only the servers belonging to The Pirate Bay was the officially named target. Some of the servers were retained for over a year! No damages were ever paid by the Police, as far as I know.