Far right groups, counter-protestors demonstrate on Independence Day

Helsinki is seeing a total of four different demonstrations or processions on Independence Day.

Protestors outside Parliament Building in downtown Helsinki on Independence Day. Image: Jaani Lampinen / Yle

Helsinki Police Department faced its biggest operation of the year as four different demonstrations or processions passed through the city centre on Independence Day.

The first protest of the day was organised by far right group Suomi herää (or 'Finland Awakes') and departed from the Aleksis Kivi statue at 3pm, arriving in front of Parliament buildings just before 4pm.

Police estimated that about 250 people participated in the protest, which included the flying of the Nationalist Alliance group's (Kansallismielisten liittouma in Finnish) flags as well as those of Suomi herää.

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Suomi herää, or Finland Awakes, protestors gathered at the Aleksis Kivi Memorial in downtown Helsinki. Image: Tuomas Rimpiläinen / Yle
Image: Jaani Lampinen / Yle

A counter protest, involving about 10 people, was moved away from the Suomi herää demonstration by police, and one of the counter protestors was taken into police custody.

Police said the remainder of the Suomi herää protest passed off peacefully, ending around 5pm.

Soon afterwards, the pre-arranged "Helsinki without Nazis" counter-demonstration left Narinkkatori Square in Kamppi, where around 300 participants had initially gathered.

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Participants in the "Helsinki without Nazis" counter-protest. Image: Veikko Eromäki / Yle
Police estimated there were about 300 participants at the start of the demonstration. Image: Veikko Eromäki / Yle

By 6pm, police said the number of participants had grown to about 1,500. The "Helsinki without Nazis" event has traditionally been held to protest against the far right in the capital. Organisers said that, in previous years, it has attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 participants.

At around the same time, Helsinki’s traditional university students’ Independence Day procession departed from Hietaniemi Cemetery at 5pm, making its way to the Presidential Palace before 6pm before ending at Senate Square.

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Participants in Helsinki’s traditional university students’ Independence Day procession. Image: Jaani Lampinen / Yle
President Sauli Niinistö waved to the procession as it passed the Presidential Palace. Image: Jaani Lampinen / Yle

The final protest of the day, the far-right 612 torch procession, began at about 6pm. An estimated 300 people participated.

According to police, "Helsinki without Nazis" protesters attempted to block Runeberginkatu in order to disrupt the route of the 612 torch procession.

The "Helsinki without Nazis" protest moving through the city. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle
The Independence Day protests are the biggest operation of the year for the Helsinki Police Department. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle