On Thursday morning, when Petri Oittinen, the chief sacristan of the Helsinki Cathedral parish, saw the red spray-painted slogans in the retaining wall of the Helsinki Cathedral, the facade dating back to the 19th century, looking into the Senate Square, he decided to take action.

This is what Petri Oittinen, the chief sacristan of the Helsinki Cathedral parish, saw as one of the first things in the morning when arriving at work at the Helsinki Cathedral on June 4. Picture: Petri Oittinen

“I called a company that handles these kinds of things,” he said. “After two hours the slogans were gone.”

The bold letters said in Finnish:

Taistele ja tee vastarintaa! (Fight and resist); Murskatkaa rasismi! (Crush racism!); and in English: George Floyd Forever!

The old facade of the Helsinki Cathedral dating back to the 19th century was covered in spray-painted slogans against racism on Thursday morning.
Picture: Petri Oittinen

“When you look at the slogans it’s clear what they are related to,” he said, “but I have no proof that they are in any way linked to the protest arranged yesterday.”

On Wednesday evening, a protest against racism called Black Lives Matter of over 3,000 people took place at the Senate Square. It was part of a bigger movement sparked by the death of the unarmed black man who died under an arrest in the U.S. His name was George Floyd.

Oittinen said the cooperation with the organizers of the protest went very well. He left the premises of the protest at around 21:00 in the evening, and it didn’t cross his mind to check the retaining wall.

Nevertheless, spray-painted messages and slogans have been around since the early 1970s. And while some may call this kind of action “vandalism,” Oittinen said that “illicitly painted slogans come and go.”

“But life goes on.”