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Police detain several Independence Day protesters

Helsinki is seeing demonstrations by neo-Nazi groups as well as those condemning the far right on Friday.

The neo-Nazi Soldiers of Odin assembled outside Helsinki's Central Library, Oodi. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Police on Friday said they had detained at least five people for disturbing the peace during Independence Day marches. Police tweeted that those apprehended were carrying illicit items, such as torches.

Around 5.30pm climate activist group Elokapina told the Finnish News Agency (STT) it temporary blocked the neo-Nazi Soldiers of Odin procession by sitting down on the sidewalk on Töölönkatu. The Soldiers of Odin began assembling on Kansalaistori “citizens’ square” outside Helsinki’s central library, Oodi, around 4pm.

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A speaker at a Soldiers of Odin rally makes a Nazi salute. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

The 2,700-strong “Helsinki without Nazis” counter-demonstration left Narinkkatori Square in Kamppi around 5.30pm, shouting slogans in Finnish and Swedish. Protesters included families with young children and senior citizens. Demonstrators carried rainbow flags and signs slamming fascists and Nazis.

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"Down with the far-right," reads the sign on the left. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

Police said some 150 people had joined the Soldiers of Odin demonstration, which had drawn people from as far away as Estonia and Sweden.

The Soldiers of Odin carried banners calling for "patriotic rebellion". Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Police have been actively monitoring the area surrounding Helsinki's Central Railway Station, as members of the Finnish chapter of the Nordic Resistance movement PVL were sighted in the area, according to the Finnish News Agency.

Police had earlier announced that they had barred the neo-Nazi Towards Freedom group (Kohti Vapautta! in Finnish) from organising an Independence Day procession. The group is considered illegal and is widely viewed as an offshoot of the banned neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL). Police believe the PVL and the Towards Freedom Movement have the same active members.

Riding police monitoring demonstrations in Helsinki on 6 December. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Demonstrations across Helsinki

3pm – 5.30pm

A procession in honour of Independence Day will gather near the National Museum in Taka-Töölö and proceed toward Mäntymäki Field at around 4pm. Police have assessed this march as being a far-right event.

4pm – 7pm

The fourth annual "Helsinki without Nazis" march will assemble at Narinkkatori Square and proceed to the Taivallahti plaza or the park near Hesperiankatu. Marchers will set off at about 5.30pm.

The "Helsinki without Nazis" event has traditionally been held to protest the far right in Helsinki. According to organisers, in previous years it has attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 participants. Organisers have said that they want to condemn the 612 far-right torch procession, which starts at 6pm.

5pm – 6pm

Helsinki’s traditional university students’ Independence Day procession will depart from Hietaniemi and make its way to the Presidential Palace before ending at Senate Square.

6pm – 8.30pm

The sixth annual far-right 612 torch procession is expected to move from the market square in Töölö on Runeberginkatu toward the Hietaniemi cemetery. Marchers are expected to get moving from 7pm.

The 612 procession has been profiled as far right, as it has brought together intensely nationalist and anti-immigrant participants. Members of the banned Nordic Resistance Movement have joined the ranks of this procession in recent years.

9pm – 11.30pm

An Independence Day memorial will take place in the park outside the Parliament Annex building.

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