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Helsinki deputy mayor condemns neo-Nazi protests outside school grounds

Two racist demonstrations outside school grounds in the past year have drawn heavy criticism from Helsinki city officials.

mielenosoitustilaisuus
Helsinki deputy mayor Pia Pakarainen. Image: Kimmo Hiltunen / Yle

Helsinki deputy mayor Pia Pakarainen condemned a neo-Nazi demonstration that was held on Wednesday outside of a school in eastern Helsinki. The deputy mayor, also head of the education division in Helsinki, denounced all racist demonstrations near schools and children.

“There is cause for concern when adults head to school grounds to start demonstrations. It’s pretty ridiculous,” said Pakarinen.

The subject was raised at a city council meeting when council member Suldaan Said Ahmed of the Left Alliance questioned Pakarinen about city measures on the issue.

Similar demonstration in 2017

On Wednesday, demonstrators gathered outside of Helsinki’s Merilahti school, which teaches years one through nine. According to education department head Liisa Pohjolainen the demonstration included six individuals.

Pohjolainen said the group in question was the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement which is known for its openly racist agenda.

Group members stationed themselves near the school gates with megaphones and flags in hand, and read a statement declaring they wanted to “keep Finland safe, clean and white".

By the time the demonstration began, Pohjolainen said students were already inside. Police were summoned to the scene, where they broke up the demonstration.

Pohjolainen stated this was the second racist demonstration to take place outside of school grounds. Another similar demonstration took place last autumn near a different school.

Both Pohjolainen and Pakarinen said they condemn the action.

“It’s a weak sign when they come this close to kids and schools. Of course it is alarming,” said Pohjolainen.

“I think that schools and children should be left alone. If an adult has an opinion, it should not be aimed at children.”

Nuolitarra roskapöntn kyljessä
The Nordic Resistance Movement's logo. Image: Yle

School discussions on student safety

The Helsinki city council assembled a safety team and the subject will be broached in schools with both children and parents. The police will also follow the situation.

In light of the demonstration, Pakarinen wondered whether it is time to discuss children’s rights to safe passage to and from school.

“If people turn up at the school gates waving flags of course it causes concern,” said Pakarinen.

She also called for some form of resistance.

“Somehow the opposite resistance should be roused [to show] that this simply isn’t okay in Finland.”

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