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Helsinki police admit failure in assessing Elokapina security threat

Police back-pedalled after the president and ministers disputed their account of the protest.

Poliisi neuvottelee mielenosoittajien kanssa poistumisesta.
A police negotiator spoke with protesters near Helsinki's Senate Square on 8 October. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

Helsinki police have admitted that they failed to correctly assess the security threat posed by the Elokapina climate demonstration at the Government Palace on Friday, and that there were failures in their communications about the event.

The Deputy Commissioner of the Helsinki Police, Heikki Kopperoinen, told Yle on Sunday that the police view of the situation differed from that of the Council of State's emergency preparedness unit on Friday afternoon.

"Police officers working outside made their own observations and the people inside the Palace have made their own. Misunderstandings must have arisen when information was exchanged, or the situation was assessed to a different degree," Kopperoinen said. He said that police now have a clearer picture of the security situation.

"Everything was peaceful inside the Palace, and there was no concrete threat," conceded Kopperoinen.

Police detained 52 people during the demonstration.

President, ministers denied re-routing

The statement came after top officials disputed a police account of events surrounding the protest.

Members of Elokapina, the Finnish branch of Extinction Rebellion, staged a sit-in outside the building on Helsinki's Senate Square. They requested an opportunity to discuss their call for a climate emergency with Finance Minister Annika Saarikko (Cen).

The NGO has been carrying out a rolling series of protests since the beginning of October.

On Saturday evening, police issued a statement saying that security had deteriorated to such a degree that the president, ministers and other officials were told to leave the building through alternative routes.

However, President Sauli Niinistö, Education Minister Li Andersson (Left) and Saarikko's staff all quickly denied the report, saying they had left the building normally after a meeting of the Council of State.

Niinistö's office said that his regular meeting with the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy (known as Utva) was held in a different location than usual, resulting in a different exit route.

According to Yle sources, the venue had already been decided before the start of Friday's demonstration, which was not pre-announced.

Statements "probably inaccurate and inappropriate"

Kopperoinen blamed the contradictory communication on misunderstandings.

"I do not feel that anyone lied or deliberately provided false information. Rather, it was a matter of information flow and careless statements. The information was probably inaccurate and inappropriate," he said.

Statements by the Helsinki Police differed from those by the Government Situation Centre at the Palace.

While the demonstration was taking place on Friday, the preparedness unit told Yle that it did not consider the situation threatening or dangerous.

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