Police in Jyväskylä were well prepared for Saturday afternoon’s Finnish Resistance Movement protest, says Jyri Rantala, Communications Chief for the Finnish Security Intelligence Service, known in Finland as Supo.
Supo had assisted local police to prepare for the demonstration and will continue to be an expert participant in the aftermath of the rioting that occurred.
Rantala says monitoring the activities of extremist groups like the Finnish Resistance Movement is one of Supo’s three main tasks in its efforts to safeguard national security, the other two being counter-intelligence and fighting terrorism.
He says the neo-Nazi party enjoys little support in Finland, with only a few dozen active members. The group normally tends to focus on distributing propaganda: handing out flyers and spreading stickers. Yet the Finnish Resistance Movement works in close cooperation with similar extremist groups in other Nordic countries, including Sweden, where there are many more incidents of similar riots. He says groups such as these promote the concept of white supremacy and a unified Nordic nation.
Eyewitness Anssi Koskinen told the Keskisuomalainen paper that he first saw Finnish Resistance Movement members in the church park handing out flyers. One hour later, he was in the Sokos department store when he heard a woman crying for help. Once outside, he saw her trying to protect a man on the ground who was being beaten by Resistance members.
Koskinen says two or three men were beating the man while another took pictures with a SLR camera. Several other Resistance members surrounded them and urged bystanders to stay away. He says he also saw a friend of the man being beaten, who was also bleeding. He described both of the victims as representative of alternative cultures, “hippies or punks”.
Chief Inspector Mikko Porvali has been appointed head of the investigation. He says that the demonstration started out peacefully and was actually wrapping up, when suddenly the participants rushed to the department store. He now thinks this move had been planned.
The police are now investigating why the three people were targeted by the demonstrators. Fortunately, the police arrived at the scene very quickly, using force and pepper spray to allay the offenders.
The members who had started the brawl were arrested on the spot, but the remaining crowd of Resistance demonstrators would not obey the police’s orders to disperse, setting off as a group towards the city centre. The police then apprehended the remainder of the group under suspicion of riotous conduct and conspiracy to riot. A total of 32 people were arrested.
The police were also tipped that the same group had planned a demonstration Saturday evening in the nearby city of Muurame, ten kilometres away. Inspector Porvali suspects that the majority of those who planned to participate in the gathering are now behind bars and therefore he is not expecting further trouble.