Over 15,000 people gathered in Helsinki's city centre this afternoon to protest racism. The Peli poikki or Stop this Game event said it seeks to break the silence in Finland that enables and fosters racism and violent right-wing extremism.
Similar demonstrations were held in the cities of Tampere, Joensuu and Kuopio, among others.
Up to 200 people assembled at the Kuopio Market Square at 11 am, among them the country’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The Kuopio protest took place without incident, although one protestor waving a Finnish flag hurled verbal insults at the prime minister, calling him a traitor.
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Sipilä participated in a radio interview during his attendance at the event, saying that he was in Kuopio for other purposes, but wanted to express his support for the cause.
“The people are doing the right thing. Violence from extremist movements is a clear concern of the silent Finnish majority,” he said.
Sipilä also promised to make changes to Finnish legislation concerning extremist groups. He said in his interview that decisions on the issue can be expected on Monday. He said Interior Minister Paula Risikko has been investigating the possibilities this past week, and changes are coming.
Calls to ban the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement intensified after a man died earlier this week as the result of an assault that took place at the hands of founding member during a FRM demonstration near Helsinki’s Central Railway Station.
Sipilä said on Saturday that political violence cannot be condemned more clearly than Finland’s governmental parties have condemned it. Many critics were outraged at the three coalition parties' silence after the death was announced.
The prime minister said he will discuss the matter with his Nordic colleagues next week, focusing on what steps they have taken to prevent the activities of right-wing organisations.
Several counter-protests were also arranged in Helsinki on Saturday, and the police did their best to keep the opposing demonstrations separate to avoid altercations.
The demonstrations across the country proceeded peacefully. At 4 pm, Yle was aware of only three people who were arrested, two of which were detained for police insubordination.