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Police Board to probe handling of climate protest

The board said it has closely followed public discourse about the protest and submitted a request for clarification to the Helsinki Police Department.

Elokapinan mielenosoittajia valtioneuvoston edessä.
Climate protestors chained and glued themselves to the entrance of the Government Palace building on Friday 8 October. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle
Yle News

The National Police Board has launched an internal investigation into the events surrounding a climate protest outside Government Palace last Friday.

Police detained a total of 52 activists from the Elokapina protest movement — the Finnish branch of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion — after protestors chained and glued themselves to the entrance of the building.

The protestors are suspected of causing a public obstruction, disobedience towards police officers as well as aggravated breaches of peace.

The last of those charges — aggravated breach of the peace — has provoked lively debate as well as criticism of the proportionality of the police's actions in removing the protestors.

The Helsinki police department has already conceded that they failed to accurately assess the security threat posed by the climate demonstration, and that there were additional failures in their communications about the event.

On Saturday evening, police said in a statement that security was judged to have deteriorated to such a degree that the president, ministers and other officials were told to leave the building through alternative routes after a meeting of the Council of State.

However, President Sauli Niinistö told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that he was not directed to follow a different route when leaving the Government Palace, and Education Minister Li Andersson (Left) also said that she left the building in the same way as always.

The Police Board stated in a press release that it has closely followed public discourse in relation to the protest and will begin an internal probe, adding that a request for clarification on the events has already been sent to the Helsinki Police Department.

Once a report has been received from the department, the board will evaluate the matter in more detail and submit a written decision.

The Police Board's role is to plan direct and supervise police operations at a national level.

Ohisalo: Ministry asked Police Board to investigate

Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Green) told news agency STT that she asked the board to initiate an investigation into the activities of officers at the climate protest, adding that her ministry has also launched a probe into the events.

Ohisalo said that she considers it very important that the police strive to be as neutral as possible in all their activities and communications, as this avoids any possible perception that the police have taken sides on a particular issue.

"The police have admitted that they have made a mistake in their assessment of the threat and also failed in their communication on the matter. I consider this important for the police that mistakes are admitted and lessons learned," Ohisalo wrote to STT in an email.

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