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Police Chief recommends avoiding Railway Square during asylum seeker protests – risk of clashes

The Railway Square in central Helsinki will host several counter-protests in reaction to an asylum seekers' protest camp and support concert on Saturday. Anti-immigration, far-right groups have threatened to "purge" the camp, and police have taken prepared for any potential clashes between demonstrators.

Asylum seekers began their protest nearly a month ago. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

Several demonstrations for and against refugees will be hosted in the vicinity of Helsinki’s Central Railway Station on Saturday afternoon. Chief of Police Lasse Aapio from the Helsinki Police Department recommends avoiding the Railway Square on Saturday.

Several counter-demonstrations are expected to fill the square on Saturday during a planned support concert for asylum seekers.

This week, threats by right-wing groups wanting to "purge" the camp set up in demonstration by refugees have circulated on social media. According to rumours, the alleged "purge" would happen on Saturday, if officials failed to take down the camp.

”We have received notice about demonstrations by several groups opposing each other, and we shall see how many people actually turn up,” Aapio said in Yle’s morning tv-show.

A Facebook group calling itself "Puhdistus" ("purge" or "cleansing") says it was set up by a group calling itself Suomen Kansallismieliset ("the Finnish Nationalists"). The neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement (SVL) has also been promoting the event on its website.

Demonstrations expected to be peaceful

Police Chief Aapio believes the demonstrations will be peaceful, but says police have taken extra precautions to avoid clashes between demonstrators.

Aapio adds that some individuals might cause individual problems. 

”If anyone is moving around that area, it’s probably good idea to take a detour through Ateneum or somewhere else”, Aapio said.

Saturday’s demonstrations come after a series of events spanning several weeks.

Asylum seekers began their protest nearly a month ago. The protesters at the Railway Square are calling for a halt to deportations and alleging that the asylum decision process is unjust.

The camp sparked counter-demonstrations by anti-immigration, far-right groups.

Earlier this week, an asylum seeker attempted suicide on Railway Square. The man tried to hang himself from a tree, but was taken down and hospitalised.

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