Three young people were charged on Tuesday over a brutal attack on a Liberian man in the Nord-Trøndelag town of Verdal. Jacob Kuteh was followed home on Saturday and set upon by the group of strangers right outside his house, one of whom allegedly told him “I don’t like immigrants here in Verdal.”
Kuteh had dropped his wife at work, and was driving home when a car flashed its lights and then started to follow him, he told newspaper Trønder-Avisa. The car stopped by his house and a group of young people got out, blocking Kuteh from entering his house. He said one person grabbed him by the throat, hit him and threw him onto the asphalt.
‘Kicked and punched’
“I tried to run to my porch, but was kicked and punched the whole way,” Kuteh said. “Eventually others came and hit me, both with their fists and a shovel. I began to cry and asked why they were doing it. One of them said: I don’t like immigrants here in Verdal.” Kuteh said he pulled out his phone and threatened to call the police, but it was grabbed and the battery thrown away.
A neighbour arrived and the group fled. Kuteh was taken to hospital and treated for a head injury. On Tuesday police conducted interviews with five youths aged in their 20s, reported newspaper Adresseavisen. Two people were charged along with a third on Tuesday afternoon, Rune Reinsborg of the Nord-Trøndelag Police District told newspaper VG. “I cannot go into the details of the charges, but three youths are now charged over the case against Jacob Kuteh,” he said.
Never experienced racism before
The 54-year-old man fled war-torn Liberia with his family 10 years ago, reported Trønder-Avisa. Kuteh told the newspaper the most important thing was for his family to be included in the Norwegian community as much as possible, and to be able to work. He said he’s worked at a kindergarten in Verdal for several years, and has never experienced racism before.
The head of the Organization Against Public Discrimination (Organisasjonen Mot Offentlig Diskriminering, OMOD), Akhaton de Leon, told newspaper Dagsavisen the critical thing now is to establish the motivation behind the abuse. “If it was the man’s skin colour that led to the attack, it’s also of enormous importance to find out why the perpetrators acted as they did,” de Leon said. “We can use such cases to learn from, to find out how we can prevent such attitudes evolving.”
He said while violent attacks are the most obvious expression of racism in a community, the most dangerous is prejudice without justification. “Racism is found in all countries and all communities, including Norway,” de Leon said. “We find it hard to realize that’s also the case here, but children who grow up in Norway experience discrimination they can’t explain, in actions triggered just by prejudice. There can be people who spit in front of you in the street, without saying anything, or people who move or show they don’t want to sit beside you on the bus, tram or train.”
De Leon believes integration in Norway is entering a new and important phase of dialogue, where many immigrants now speak the language just as well as ethnic Norwegians. They can participate in discussions, debates and actions to shape society’s future.