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Hundreds converge in capital to rally against Covid restrictions

Protesters flouted rules limiting public gatherings in the Uusimaa region to six people.

Koronarajoitusten vastustajat ryhmähalaavat Helsingin kansalaistorilla.
People demonstrating against Covid restrictions in Helsinki on Saturday 20 March join in a group hug. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Helsinki on Saturday to protest restrictions aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus.

Police told Yle that the demonstration did not proceed as had been agreed with organisers who said protesters would turn up for dozens of smaller events. Groups, however, merged once demonstrations started. Current rules on public gatherings limit groups to six people.

"An uncontrolled number of people have packed in though the plan was to have 15 groups of six people. Other protesters were supposed to remain outside the area," Police Inspector Jarmo Heinonen told Yle, saying police worried about the gathering’s health implications.

The demonstration drew some 300 people when it departed from Helsinki’s Senate Square around 2pm. The procession grew to around 400 individuals by the time it reached Citizens’ Square by Oodi library.

Unhappy about health measures

Activists said they were protesting Covid restrictions, which they said did more harm than good while curtailing people’s freedom. In addition to restrictions, demonstrators also objected to vaccinations and face masks.

Protester Christoffer Weiss said he travelled from Karjaa to Helsinki to join the demonstration.

"We’re here to question authorities’ measures. More than six people can’t gather, but you can still go to the store. We also wonder if officials aren’t exaggerating the danger of the pandemic since people die of the flu every year," he said.

Jonas Nordberg said he was demonstrating against limits on societal debate.

"This event has nothing to do with coronavirus. It’s about the right to be a free citizen in this country," he told Yle.

Rallies against coronavirus restrictions are taking place in some 40 countries around the world on Saturday.

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