Skip to content

Volunteers set up drug use tent in Helsinki, police quickly order it to be taken down

The organisers said there was not enough time for anyone to use drugs prior to the arrival of police.

An illegal drug consumption tent was set up in Helsinki's Dallapénpuisto park.
An illegal drug consumption tent was set up in Helsinki's Dallapénpuisto park. Image: Rosa Lehtokari
Yle News

Volunteers temporarily opened an illegal drug use tent in Helsinki on Wednesday afternoon, but police quickly asked for it to be dismantled after showing up at the scene.

The police do not suspect any crime in connection to the case at this stage.

"We have no evidence that illegal substances were used there, at least not during the time the police were present. Of course, things could change if new information comes to light," Superintendent Patrik Karlsson said.

According to the organisers, no one had time to arrive to use drugs before the police arrived.

Volunteers set up a tent in Helsinki's Dallapénpuisto park where people could come and use injected drugs safely. The park is in an area of Helsinki which has traditionally been a hub for illicit substances, near the city's colloquially named "Amphetamine Square". Substance abuse and health professionals were on hand to offer people help, advice, clean equipment and food.

"Simply put, this is civil disobedience," Juha-Pekka Pääskysaari, one of the organisers of the event, told Yle on Wednesday.

A tour through the drug consumption tent that was briefly erected in Helsinki's Dallapénpuisto park on Wednesday.

Police and volunteers discussed situation

At around 4:50pm on Wednesday, the police arrived and asked for volunteers to take the tent down.

"I understand that the situation was well negotiated. The organisers were told that the police could not allow the activity. We do not take a position on whether there should be an experiment in the use of the tent at some point. The law at the moment is that drug use is illegal," police Superintendent Karlsson said.

The tent was dismantled at around 5:20pm.

"There is a risk that when you advertise a place where you can use drugs, someone will come there thinking that they can freely use them without repercussions. Then the police come and have to give a penalty for that. I think this is a bit of a bad equation," Karlsson continued.

Drug use in public places creates a feeling of insecurity

The volunteers' impetus for setting up a drug use space was motivated by frustration at the slow pace of progress in setting up drug consumption rooms. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has recommended that Finland should start a pilot scheme.

According to the THL study, use rooms would reach the most marginalised drug users and could improve access to health services for problem users.

"Drug use is definitely a problem in Helsinki. The police have many tasks that involve drug use either directly or indirectly. If users use substances in public toilets or parks, it creates a general feeling of insecurity," Karlsson confirmed.

He pointed out that it is not up to the police to decide whether or not to allow drug use rooms, but that the issue should be approached through legislation.

An official report by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health recommended that there should be a separate law on experimentation with drug consumption rooms.

Would you like a roundup of the week's top stories in your inbox every Thursday? Then sign up to receive our weekly email.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia