The climate demonstration that began blocking both lanes on Mannerheimintie in downtown Helsinki on Thursday has continued into a second day on Friday, with protestors saying they are preparing to stay put for the weekend.
The protest organised by the environmental group Extinction Rebellion Finland (Elokapina) started at 1:00pm on Thursday, and continued throughout the night, with police still diverting vehicles away from the demonstration in front of Parliament House well into Friday evening.
The protesters have called for Finland to declare a climate and environmental emergency and for the country to achieve its carbon neutrality targets ten years earlier, in 2025 instead of 2035, as outlined by Prime Minister Sanna Marin's government.
After tweeting her support for the group’s cause on Friday afternoon, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo told Yle that she shared the group’s concerns.
"I have not supported this particular group but said that I share their concerns. One of the reasons they are demonstrating is that the climate crisis is the biggest crisis of our time. That I am allowed to say, as a politician," Ohisalo said.
In response to a tweet from Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho, asking why the police were unable to remove the protesters from the street, Ohisalo said that is for the police, and not for politicians, to decide.
"The Finnish constitution provides the right to peacefully assemble and this is an area where politicians cannot interfere. The police continue to evaluate the situation and will in each situation determine the effects of the protest and its disruption to society," Ohisalo told Yle.
Protestors ready for "week of civil unrest"
On Friday afternoon the Helsinki Police said they have no intention of interrupting the demonstration, telling tabloid Iltalehti that the law issues no time limit for a protest.
"It will last until the organiser decides to stop or the police will have to intervene. We are assessing the situation moment by moment," said deputy chief Heikki Kopperoinen.
According to Kopperoinen, Extinction Rebellion Finland has been talking about a week of civil unrest.
"If they are to be believed, we can expect various events related to civil disobedience," Kopperoinen told Yle.
Thursday and Friday's demonstration was not the first time the activist group has blocked traffic in the capital. In October 2020, police broke up a similar but smaller group of Extinction Rebellion activists by pepper spraying the group and detaining more than 50 of the activists.
The altercation resulted in the filing of a criminal complaint by 14 members of the group against the police over their excessive use of force.