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Police set to intervene in unlawful Independence Day marches

Helsinki police said they will break up processions deemed to be a risk to public order and security.

Uusnatsien järjestämä ”Kohti vapautta” -kulkue itsenäisyyspäivänä 2017.
Soldiers of Odin members in a "Towards Freedom" procession on Independence Day 2017. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Helsinki police said that they had received notice of five Independence Day processions as of Wednesday afternoon. Chief Inspector Seppo Kujala, who is responsible for overseeing the Independence Day marches, said that this year there will likely be fewer small processions than in previous years.

Friday 6 December marks the 102nd anniversary of Finnish independence.

Police said that they expect the observances to proceed peacefully, in spite of tensions that emerged in the past.

"But of course we will have to prepare for bumps in the road and then we will have to be on hand to maintain public order and security," Kujala added.

Still time for new marchers to come forward

Organisers can inform police of their intention to gather for demonstrations up to 24 hours before the event. That means there was still time on Thursday for police to receive new notifications.

"Of course sometimes there are also gatherings that have not been announced in advance and of course we will be prepared to deal with those as well," Kujala said.

For example the far-right group Soldiers of Odin said on its website that would be organising a demonstration on Friday.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Helsinki police noted that it could intervene in demonstrations if the pose a threat to public order and security or if they disrupt traffic. Police said that they could also break up processions deemed to be unlawful.

Earlier in the week police announced that they had barred the neo-Nazi Towards Freedom group (Kohti Vapautta! in Finnish) from organising an Independence Day procession. The group is considered illegal and is widely viewed as an offshoot of the banned neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL).

Demonstrations across Helsinki

3pm – 5.30pm

A procession in honour of Independence Day will gather near the National Museum in Taka-Töölö and proceed toward Mäntymäki Field at around 4pm. Police have assessed this march as being a far-right event.

4pm – 7pm

The fourth annual "Helsinki without Nazis" march will assemble at Narinkkatori Square and proceed to the Taivallahti plaza or the park near Hesperiankatu. Marchers will set off at about 5.30pm.

The "Helsinki without Nazis" event has traditionally been held to protest the far right in Helsinki. According to organisers, in previous years it has attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 participants. Organisers have said that they want to condemn the 612 far-right torch procession, which starts at 6pm.

5pm – 6pm

Helsinki’s traditional university students’ Independence Day procession will depart from Hietaniemi and make its way to the Presidential Palace before ending at Senate Square.

6pm – 8.30pm

The sixth annual far-right 612 torch procession is expected to move from the market square in Töölö on Runeberginkatu toward the Hietaniemi cemetery. Marchers are expected to get moving from 7pm.

The 612 procession has been profiled as far right, as it has brought together intensely nationalist and anti-immigrant participants. Members of the banned Nordic Resistance Movement have joined the ranks of this procession in recent years.

9pm – 11.30pm

An Independence Day memorial will take place in the park outside the Parliament Annex building.

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