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City of Helsinki rented space to neo-Nazi group

Two weekends ago members of the Swedish Resistance Movement (SMR), a neo-Nazi organisation, gathered in a space rented from the city of Helsinki. It was the first official meeting of the group's Finnish arm, according to the Free Movement Network.

The October 22 meeting held in the city's Sähkötalo building in Kamppi drew around 30 people, according to Dan Koivulaakso, a spokesman for the Free Movement Network, a migrant rights group in Finland.

Koivulaakso told YLE News that his group learned about the seminar entitled "Fight Against" from the SMR website.

The Free Movement Network has sent a letter to the Helsinki City Council regarding the space rental, asking officials to explain whether providing premises for neo-Nazis to congregate complies with the city’s policy to combat racism.

The city rents space through Palmia, an enterprise owned by the city. Leila Korhonen, head of catering services at Palmia, says the company would not knowingly have rented the room out to neo-Nazis.

“But as long as they’re not breaking any laws, people have a legal right to assemble,” she explains.

Those interested in renting space from the city need only to provide their name to Palmia. But Korhonen says the incident has raised much internal discussion.

"It would be very difficult to rate lessees on their ideological background. We check their credit rating and that’s it,” she told YLE News.

The Finnish branch of SMR was born in 2008. According to Koivulaakso, SMR's Finnish meetings have previously been held in secrecy.

“The social climate in Finland has hardened in recent years, making groups like SMR feel they can stage their meetings in the open,” he explains. “Many of the movement’s Swedish members have been convicted of murder and violent crime.”

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