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Helsinki police prepare for Independence Day marches, protests

Supervising processions, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations on Independence Day has traditionally been the biggest operation of the year for the Helsinki Police Department.

File photo showing the anti-right-wing "Helsinki without Nazis" procession on Runeberginkatu in the capital, 6 December 2021. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle
Yle News

Police in Helsinki are preparing for five separate, but occasionally overlapping, demonstrations or processions due to take place in the capital on Finland's Independence Day, Tuesday 6 December.

The events include regular Independence Day marches by nationalist or extreme right-wing groups including Suomi herää (or 'Finland Awakes') and the 612 torch procession.

The Suomi herää demonstration will begin at 4pm outside Helsinki's Central Station before moving to Parliament House. The event is reported to have been organised by the Sinimusta (Blue-black) party, established by former members of the Finns Party, and has in recent years replaced the demonstrations previously organised by the now-defunct neo-Nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement.

Meanwhile, "Helsinki without Nazis" — described as an anti-right-wing group — will begin a counter-demonstration march from Narinkkatori Square in Kamppi at 6pm. The demonstration has been arranged by a number of different groups — including Elokapina, the Finnish branch of the Extinction Rebellion climate action group — and has been described by the organisers as "a rally in favour of a safer, freer and more equal Helsinki and the world".

The 612 torch procession is scheduled to begin at 6:30pm and has been reportedly arranged by Timo Hännikäinen, second vice-chair of Suomen Sisu, which has previously described itself as nationalistic and patriotic and opposes immigration and multiculturalism.

Although the organiser of each event must provide police with a schedule and route plan, Chief Inspector Heikki Porola told Yle that these details are provisional and police may request changes to departure times or routes to avoid any clashes between the different groups.

"There may be changes. These are difficult to predict," Porola said.

The demonstrations are expected to have a significant impact on tram and bus services in Helsinki city centre from early afternoon, with the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) noting that the 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8 tram lines and bus routes 24 and 25 in particular will be affected.

Some city streets will also be closed to traffic while the processions are ongoing, and police advise motorists to avoid the city centre, especially the Töölö district, entirely between 4pm and 8pm.

The day's schedule also includes the traditional Independence Day procession by students of Helsinki University — first held in 1951 — which will depart as usual from Hietaniemi at 5pm before making its way to the Presidential Palace and ending at Senate Square.

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