Police have removed a roadside banner containing a racist message, despite earlier insisting that they had no power to take down the sign because it was too far from the road.
Officers took down the banner, which describes people on the other side of the Mediterranean as “animals”, on Thursday afternoon, three days after it was reported by drivers on the road between Ylöjärvi and Nokia in the Tampere region.
Chief Inspector Ilkka Laasanen from Central Finland Police told the newspaper Aamulehti the banner was removed because it caused offence.
This appeared to contradict previous statements from the police, who on Wednesday had defended their inaction saying to Yle that they could remove the sign only if it were closer to the road and contravened traffic regulations, or if they received an official criminal complaint.
On Thursday Central Finland Police said they are investigating whether the racist message constituted grounds for prosecution.
Neo-Nazi 'humour month'
Meanwhile the neo-Nazi group the Finnish Resistance Movement claimed responsibility for the message on their website, claiming the banner was part of its “humour month”.
The group’s website claims that during the summer it has put up similar banners across the Tampere region, and said it has been distributing flyers and business cards on a weekly basis to increase awareness of its activities.
It insisted that its slogan “did not specify which side of the Mediterranean the animals were on”.
The Finnish Resistance Movement most recently made news headlines when several members were arrested on assault and rioting charges following a march in Jyväskylä on August 1.