“A racist is a weakling!” The shouts pervaded a mass of about 650 people, who stood at Narinkkatori in front of the Kamppi shopping centre in Helsinki on the cloudy Saturday afternoon for the opposing causes.
Nearly 400 people of ages 18-30 had summoned to Stop the Racism and shouted variations of “Open the borders!” and “Nazis, eat shit!”
The rest, about 250 significantly older men and women of ages ranging between 18 and 65, had gathered for the Close the Borders demonstration and were holding speeches and chanting slogans relating to their core message: Close the borders from the refugees. The remaining group consisted of dozens of the police swarming in riot gear and of hundreds of regular spectators, who had stopped on their way for weekend shopping.
Filming, editing and subtitles: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
From the point of view of the law enforcement, the protesters against racism had summoned illegally because other than marketing their protest on the internet, they hadn’t given the proper announcement to the police, which, according to law, is required in relation to demonstrations. Also, the demonstrators had failed to give the necessary contact details, which are necessary in case things get out of hand.
And, unfortunately, they did.
Before the demonstrations, the police were speculating that the protesters against racism were seeking a conflict, so it didn’t take long from the start of the demonstrations for the law enforcement to separate the groups by pushing the outlaws to the other side of the square.
Meanwhile, the protesters from the other side took turns and shouted profanities at their opponents.
“Look at my sleeve, I am a Nazi,” yelled Pertti, who was wearing a Third Reich visor cap and while sipping beer the rays of the sun illuminated the arm of his grey military jacket, which was embroidered with Bundesadler, the black eagle known as the coat of arms of Germany.
While a lady from close-the-borders-camp was holding a speech, a girl managed to sneak through the police barriers and threw a can of cider upon her.
A group against racism tried to sneak in from a corner but they were quickly stopped by the police carrying a bright orange riot gun. During the course of the events, police caught four people, and the cavalry sealed the main entrance point next to the chapel of Kamppi. After about 1.5 hours, the demonstrations were concluded and the opposing groups started marching towards the centre.
The protesters against racism marched passing the railway station towards Hakaniemi while their opponents strolled along Mannerheimintie.
During the events, the police caught two people in front of the art museum Ateneum. A torch pushing violet smoke lay on the ground while the police kept the clashing groups separate.
There was at least one act of physical violence. During the protests, a photographer and a writer of the left wing politics, Mikael Brunila, got hit on the nose.
“I was taking a photograph of the protesters for closing the borders and somebody hit me,” he said later with his bridge of the nose turning purple.
After the protesters for closing the borders reached the Bank of Finland in Kruununhaka district, they kept waving the Finnish flag, holding banners and giving speeches.
The speeches focused on the common themes of that, how Finland could possibly receive more refugees (a total of 30,000 to 50,000 estimated for this year), when the economy is sinking and the government is planning to cut the benefits of the poorest drastically. The other theme focused on the “ungratefulness” of the asylum seekers. In Oulu, a city in the Northern Ostrobothnia region, a group of about 100 asylum seekers had protested for better food and shelter at the end of September.
“If the refugees are not willing to eat the same food as the students and pensioners then, for fuck’s sake, they can go home,” said Tero, one of the protesters.
A small group against racism arrived at the corner of the street. The groups were once again separated by the police.
At one point, the opposing groups got in a heated verbal war of profanities and it became a battle of who was the loudest.
“Open the borders!” screamed a dark-skinned young lady in a blue hijab.
“Close the borders!” shouted a group of men and added, “Fucking morons!”
“Eat shit, Nazis!”
“You, drink shit!”
A young man with a shaved head marched loudly at the scene and started doing the Heil Hitler salute. He finished his performance with the middle finger.
After the speeches were held and the demonstrators started parting, the protesters against racism followed their opponents to Yliopistonkatu with the police tagging along.
“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!” the shouts echoed in the air as the last of the Close the Borders demonstrators disappeared in the street.