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Mounted police rein in sprawling Weekend festival crowd in Helsinki

Young people from the popular club music festival wandered into the nearby cemetery, and several incidents of alleged assault were also reported.

Yleisö odottaa sisäänpääsyä festivaalialueelle.
Young people at the 2018 WKND festival. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Helsinki Police report that several reports of assault were submitted at the Weekend music festival on Friday and Saturday. The electronic dance music festival WKND was organised in Finland for the sixth time on August 18-20, this year in the sandy Hietaniemi beach area of the capital city.

Authorities estimate that the festival attracted about 20,000 ticketholders on both Friday and Saturday. The three-day music festival will end on Sunday.

"There will always be side effects associated with crowds of people gathering, but the situation wasn't out of control, by any means," detective Henri Helminen told the news agency STT late Saturday night.

He says reports of three alleged assaults were submitted to the police on Friday, and by Saturday at 10 pm, this number had grown to "around five".

"The good news is that the victim's injuries were mild," Helminen said.

No age limit

The WKND festival has no age restriction, so many of the participants are between the ages of 15 and 18. The organisers say that young people under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult.

Many of the young people attending the event ended up wandering into the nearby Hietaniemi cemetery this year. The cemetery is the largest and most prominent of its kind in Helsinki, with a large military cemetery section for soldiers who fell in Finland's wars, in addition to the graves of many of the country's former presidents and important cultural figures.

"Of course the kids are going to be pulled into the nearby areas. If you look at the map, there's only the water on the one side and the cemetery on the other," said Helminen.

He says the festival's security personnel were primarily responsible for keeping order in the cemetery.

"After groups of ten young people or so were asked to leave, the police backed up the request with their own authority. Mounted police would tell them they have to get out of the area. There was no resistance or scuffles," Helminen said.

Cemetery groundskeeper: Worst place for a festival

The Hietaniemi cemetery's senior groundskeeper Ari Pipatti told the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that he would prefer that the Weekend festival not be arranged in Hietaniemi in the future.

"Underage kids drink beer, leave their rubbish and answer the call of nature there [in the cemetery]. Many of them also sit on the outer stone wall, and it's a four-metre drop down from there," he said.

Helsinki Police confirm that several fines for urinating in public areas were issued during the festival. Detective Helminen said that as far as he knew, as of Saturday night, none had been issued for such behaviour in the cemetery, however.

Pipatti told IS that large-scale events at the Hietaniemi beach area have always meant major disturbances to the nearby cemetery's operations.

"I've worked here for 20 years, and there've been all sorts of events held at the beach in that time. It's always been the same story. Things have been messier in the past, but I can't think of a worse place in Helsinki to arrange a three-day festival like this," he said.

Organisers of the WKND festival issued a press release late on Saturday night: "The festival has done its best to try and cooperate in a constructive manner with the cemetery's representatives via numerous meetings and talks."

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