Pride flag stolen, burned in Helsinki

A video showing two men setting fire to the flag was posted online.

The Pride flag and the National Museum of Finland. Image: AOP ja Yle

Police say they believe a Pride flag which was stolen from the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki on Friday was subsequently set on fire by two men in a video that circulated online over the weekend.

Tabloid Iltalehti reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (in Finnish) that the video was entitled "cleaning Helsinki's street view" and that comments under the posting read "88", a neo-Nazi numerical code for "Heil Hitler".

Helsinki police have so far not commented on whether or not the incident will be investigated as a hate crime, but more detailed information will be available once a preliminary probe has been completed.

The theft of the flag could be investigated as either petty larceny or theft, and the burning as an act of vandalism, police added.

Helsinki Pride organisers condemn act

In a statement (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on its official website, Helsinki Pride’s Executive Director Aaro Horsma blamed a nationalist youth group for committing the act.

"Homophobic and transphobic hatred from a group that is also completely racist, is a reminder of why we need to be able to stand together against all acts of discrimination, hate speech and degrading dignity," Horsma wrote.

"To the perpetrators, the so-called nationalists, I would like to be able to say that my grandparents have fought, cared for and lifted this land to its feet."

The National Museum has traditionally been the centre point of the Helsinki Pride Week, which promotes the rights of sexual and gender minorities. Helsinki Pride is usually held in the week after midsummer, culminating in a parade on the final Saturday of June.

This year however, the entire programme was postponed until the autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A similar incident occurred last year in the southeastern Finnish city of Kouvola.