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Police break up anti-restrictions protests in Helsinki

Police came under criticism for not dispersing a 300-person demonstration three weeks ago.

Police took protesters into custody on the Market Square on Saturday. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Police detained 20 people during protests against Covid-19 restrictions in central Helsinki on Saturday. In addition, 10 motorists were fined for disruptive driving and honking their horns as part of a procession through the downtown area.

An estimated 300 people took part in the demonstrations. Most of those taken into custody are expected to be fined for refusing to obey police orders.

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Demonstrators carried signs near the Glass Palace (Lasipalatsi) in downtown Helsinki. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

According to police, protesters who gathered on the Market Square and Narinkkatori Square were ordered to disperse.

Police said in advance that they intended to disband a so-called "Grand March" against coronavirus restrictions planned for Saturday if an attempt was made to form a large group out of many small demonstrations in the procession.

Some 300 people had indicated they planned to attend via the event's Facebook page. It was scheduled to last until 4pm, but organisers did not file a notification with officials ahead of time as required by law.

Police said they were also monitoring a separate two-person demonstration in a park in front of the Parliament Annex (Pikkuparlamentti), which they had been informed of in advance.

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Officers on Kaivokatu near the Central Railway Station. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

On Thursday, Helsinki police said they suspected 46 people of violating health restrictions at a similar protest three weeks ago.

Authorities estimated that about 300 people took part in the 20 March demonstration, most of them packed together in violation of an agreed plan to stay within groups of no more than six. Police were criticised for doing little to intervene at the time.

Police told the news agency STT that this Saturday's protesters were "the same group who did not follow police orders a few weeks ago."

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