As of last Thursday, the security-conscious anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin is now an officially registered Finnish NGO. The association, which was registered in Kemi, northern Finland, calls on its members to "develop a culture of security".
Part of the group's declared mandate also involves encouraging citizens to take the initiative in maintaining security in the environment. Now that it has been formally recognised by the authorities, the association can now legally engage in publishing activities, organise lotteries, run coffee shops and sell clothes.
According to the Finnish Patent and Registration office (PRH), the Soldiers' rules allow the organisation to accept individuals who support its principles. The Soldiers of Odin now has an executive committee with a chairperson and two other executive members.
The group formed following the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers in Finland last autumn and began mobilising street patrols aimed at deterring violence by immigrants. Finnish media have reported extensively on the alleged criminal backgrounds of several Soldiers of Odin members.
Britain's Daily Mail tabloid paper recently reported that the group said it welcomed white supremacists into its ranks, although not all of its membership subscribed to the concept.
Warning for Loldiers of Odin
Following its registration as an association, the Soldiers of Odin called on a clown-themed parody group known as the Loldiers of Odin to stop using referencing the Soldiers with the name Loldiers.
"Names that can be equated with us cannot be used, because we are a registered association. For example, Loldiers of Odin is too close and according to our lawyer we can take [you] to court. Post a message that you will change your name to something that cannot be associated with us or we’ll see you in court," Soldiers founder Mika Matias Ranta wrote in Facebook.
"Happy Valentine’s Day to you too and as I have already messaged you privately, Soldiers of Odin is an association and your name references us. We kindly ask that you remove or change your name. We can take this matter all the way to court. Thank you," Loldiers of Odin’s Lauri Kuosmanen responded in Facebook.
Soldiers of Odin declined to provide Yle with any comment on its operations. The group's street patrols have spread to several cities across Finland, including Pori, Huittinen, Helsinki and Joensuu. It has also attracted social media followers in countries such as Sweden, the USA, Canada and Portugal.