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Helsinki court freezes climate action group's assets

Elonvaalijat, the registered association which organises the activities of the Elokapina climate protest movement, has denied committing any fundraising crimes.

Poliiis yrittää poistaa mielenosoittajaa portailta.
Elokapina protestors glued and chained themselves to the entrance of Government Palace in Helsinki on Friday 8 October. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle
Yle News

Helsinki District Court has ordered the freezing of assets worth a total of 20,000 euros belonging to Elonvaalijat, the registered association which supports the Elokapina climate protest movement.

Although Elonvaalijat does not hold any decision-making power within the Elokapina group, association member Ville Saarinen told Yle that it "helps by arranging financial support for the climate activist movement and managing personal registers in compliance with data protection laws".

Police filed a request to the court last week asking for the sequestration of the group's assets as they had reason to suspect fundraising laws had been violated on two separate occasions, the first between 26 April 2021 and 18 June 2021 and the second on 15 September.

Elonvaalijat's vice chair Lauri Kangassalo has previously told Yle that the climate action group denies committing any crime.

However, according to police, Elonvaalijat's fundraising activities have violated Section 6 of Finland's Money Collection Act, which states that fundraising may not be used to "fund activities that clearly endanger public order or security, or that are illegal."

Police argue the group has raised money in order to fund Elokapina demonstrations, which have led to the detention of activists on suspicion of committing offences such as causing a public obstruction, disobedience towards police officers and aggravated breaches of the peace.

Police further suspect that the Elonvaalijat association has exceeded its maximum number of approved fundraising notifications, which are required before public collections can be legally made.

The head of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Juha-Matti Suominen, has previously declined to say which of the association's representatives are under investigation.

The sequestration of assets is a standard procedure in the investigation of suspected crimes, as it aims to ensure that if a crime is proven, any criminal proceeds can be seized.

If Elonvaalijat are found guilty in court of violating fundraising law, the punishment would be a fine.

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

The National Police Board has launched an internal investigation into the events surrounding the protest.

Elokapina is an activist group that has organised protests to pressure the government to declare a climate emergency in Finland. It has blocked streets in Helsinki during several demonstrations to draw attention to its demands for action against climate change.

EDIT NOTE added on 19.10.2021 at 15:51 to clarify Elonvaalijat's role in relation to Elokapina, and that it supports but does not organise the group's activities.

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