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Demonstration protests government policy in Helsinki

Police estimate that about 1,000 people took part in a Joukkovoima demonstration in Helsinki on Saturday to protest government policy.

Joukkovoima (People Power) protests on September 2 in Helsinki. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Protestors gathered in Helsinki on September 2 to demonstrate against the centre-right government led by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. Organised by a group calling itself Joukkovoima (People Power), the protest accuses the country's leaders of favouring the rich and trampling on the poor - with the unemployed and pensioners footing the bill.

Demonstrators set out from three different areas and converged on the main thoroughfare in Helsinki, Mannerheimintie. From there, the peaceful procession proceeded to the Parliament building and on to the Central Railway Station.

Police estimate that hundreds of people took part in the protest, which included people who travelled to the capital city by bus from as far away as Kuopio in the north, Joensuu in the east and Turku in the west.

Power to the people

Eeva-Maria Grekula from the southern coastal city of Raseborg says she is a graduate of a master's programme in social sciences, but she hasn't been able to find work. She says that several small decisions on the government's part have worked together to force vulnerable people into a more difficult situation.

"Simultaneous hikes in health care fees and cuts to social benefits are an example of how these things work together," she says.

Hannu Huhtala from Tampere has participated in all of the demonstrations that Joukkovoima has arranged over the years. He says the state's cuts to pensioners' income in particular are reprehensible. Increases in medication prices also unfairly target the older segment of the population. 

"I am a diabetic myself. The price increase for diabetes medication is just crazy," says Huhtala.

Demonstrators on the steps of the Parliament building. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Many of the signs and slogans the protesters used called for the sacking of key politicians in the current coalition, like Sipilä, Foreign Minister Timo Soini and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo. The disproportionate sway of Finland's business owner confederation EK also came in for criticism: "Government is a slave to big money" read one banner carried in the crowd.  Women's and animal's rights were also a rallying cry among the marchers.

The citizen's group Joukkovoima has arranged similar events in Finland at earlier dates. Two mass demonstrations organised on social media by the group last year drew over ten thousand people to demonstrate.

Joukkovoima states unequivocally that it is politically unaffiliated. The display of political symbols is not allowed in demonstrations that are organized by the group.

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