Skip to content
The article is more than 7 years old

Police brace for anti-racism demo, counter-protests

Helsinki police are looking to head off possible confrontations between anti-racism demonstrators and counter-protests expected in the downtown area on Saturday. Officials say that so far five organisations have indicated their intention to take to the streets in the city centre.

meillä on unelma 2
Last summer the organisers of the "Game over" demonstration also rallied a large crowd opposed to racism and hate in Citizen's Square. Image: Ghadi Boustani / Yle

Law enforcement officers in Helsinki say they have received advance notification from five organisations that have declared their intention to stage demonstrations in the city on Saturday.

The largest group to take to the streets is the "We have a dream" movement, which has organised a demonstration under the banner "Game over – break the silence". So far nearly 9,000 people have signed up for the protest action via the group’s Facebook page.

Police said that another group, intending to have a counter-protest opposing alleged discrimination against Finns, has signaled its intention to assemble in Citizen’s Square.

A third group of counter-protesters also said that it plans to congregate at the Three Smiths Square in the heart of the city. Helsinki police inspector Ismo Juvonen did not name the group in question.

However the "Close our borders" movement created a Facebook post promoting a demonstration at that location on Saturday. Police officials said that they proposed to the group that it should move its event to Narinkkatori, so as not to clash with the "Game over" procession from Citizen’s Square to Senate Square.

Juvonen said that police are bracing for a larger-than-usual turnout for the demonstrations and that dozens of officers will be deployed.

"Even if nothing bigger takes place, there are always isolated individuals who easily cause some kind of disturbance," Juvonen said.

Similar gatherings in Joensuu, Tampere

Last Friday a young man passed away following an assault at Helsinki’s Central Railway Station the previous Saturday. He had allegedly had a confrontation with an individual during a demonstration by the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement when he was kicked in the chest, causing him to strike his head when he fell to the ground.

Although he was discharged from hospital on Thursday, he died on Friday from a brain aneurysm. A man said to be a founding member of the neo-Nazi group has been held in detention under suspicion of aggravated involuntary manslaughter. The incident ignited broad public discussion on extreme-right groups in Finland earlier this week.

According to Juvonen, as a result of the recent incident, police will be keeping an especially close eye on the movements of different grassroots organisations as well as their social media presence.

"Each case will be considered separately, but now that there will be these simultaneous demonstrations, we will also have discussions with the organisations about the nature of their events. These events have their own risks, but there is no need for special concern at the moment," the police inspector added.

He stressed that the primary role of police at Saturday’s protests will be to protect the right of the public to demonstrate and not to manage traffic.

"The demonstrations will take place in a small area and for that reason it will be important to ensure that everything proceeds without incident."

Other parts of Finland will see protesters gather to stage their own "Game over" demonstrations. Parallel protests will take place at the market square in Joensuu, eastern Finland, as well as in Tampere.

Yle will provide live online coverage of the anti-racism demonstrations in Helsinki on Saturday.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia