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Security boss: Neo-Nazi group should be banned

Finland’s largest established neo-Nazi group, the Finnish Resistance Movement, is a branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement that espouses white power in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Security and intelligence officials in Finland say there are strong arguments for banning the group, but a ban could also create many problems. For example, the group could simply move underground and return with a new name and symbol.

TV-studiossa istuu viisi miestä.
Thursday’s A-talk guests, from left to right: Dan Koivulaakso, Esa Holappa, Yle’s Jan Andersson, Juho Eerola and Kari Harju Image: Yle

Kari Harju, head of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service’s security unit says Finland should take steps to ban the Finnish Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi organization.

“It would be a signal to the people, now that so many incidents have taken place,” he said.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle’s Thursday A-talk programme was devoted to a discussion of the white supremacy organization. The National Police Board and the National Office of the Prosecutor agreed in October that the National Police Board would continue an exploration of a possible prohibition.

“We are talking about our Constitutional rights, like freedom of assembly, but the Constitution under no circumstances permits the enactment of criminal offenses. Many difficult questions are however linked with a ban: for example, can we officially prohibit the symbols? And the group exists throughout the Nordics, so what will happen if we ban it in Finland and it is not banned in Sweden? The Swedish branch might even become a political party there, so what kind of situation would that present?” Harju said.

Finns Party MP opposes idea

Populist Finns Party MP Juho Eerola was also on the discussion panel Thursday evening. He is not in favour of banning the group.

“In my opinion it shouldn’t be banned. It’s not really an organized, registered association now. Instead it is a scattered group, even though it does have a hierarchy. Legally prohibiting it would mystify it, bringing it more notoriety and pushing it underground. If we ban their symbols, what is to stop them from dressing in a suit or some sports club’s tracksuits? On the contrary, it is better that people see the familiar symbols, so they know to keep their distance and call the police, if necessary,” Eerola said.

Former member: Ban won’t stop activity

Esa Holappa also appeared on A-talk. He was a founding member of the Finnish Resistance Movement back in the day, and has since renounced his former activity and resigned from the group.

“A prohibition wouldn’t make the problem go away. If the group is banned, it can simply pop up again the next day with a new name and logo. The same people will continue their activities on some level,” the former member said.

Publicity is best weapon

The last panellist, Helsinki city councillor and author of two books on Finland’s far-right Dan Koivulaakso says that bringing the activities of the group to the attention of the public is the only way to keep extremist groups like the Resistance Movement on the margins.

“I think that sending clear signals is good, but we can’t deny people freedom of assembly and expression. We have to challenge groups like this, so they cannot expand undisturbed. Publicity is often the best tool: in Helsinki, they have been evicted by landlords who have been informed about just what they are up to.”

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