A new protest camp has replaced the long-running ‘Right to Live’ demonstration that was evicted from Helsinki Railway Square two weeks ago. Now based outside Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, the camp was given permission to reopen by the Helsinki Police Department on Wednesday, 12 June.
The anti-immigrant counter-protest, organised by the nationalist group Suomi Ensin (Finland First), has likewise relocated to a small square across the street from the asylum seeker’s demonstration.
Originally shut down by police on 27 June, three days before the ‘Right to Live’ protest was broken up, the anti-immigrant demonstration is now based outside a monument to former Finnish President J.K. Paasikivi.
Helsingin Sanomat reported that, while the ‘Right to Live’ demonstration is ongoing, Finland First is determined to continue with its counter-protest. When asked about Finland First’s intentions, the nationalist group’s leader Marco de Wit said: "We have a principle that we are here for just as long as they [the asylum seekers] are in front of Kiasma. We found that their tent was put up today. If they come tomorrow, we will come back here with a bigger tent.”
Despite the two protests being shut down in June for security reasons, the Helsinki Police Department decided that both should be allowed to continue in their new locations. However, while no time restriction was previously in place, the demonstrations can now only take place from 8am to 10pm.
Noting that the previous camps were closed due to security concerns, Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle asked Heikki Kopperoinen, Deputy Police Chief of the Helsinki Police Department, if the situation will be any different this time around. Kopperoinen answered: "We are constantly assessing the situation, day by day. These assessments are used as the basis for any police decisions, in addition to negotiations with both the demonstrators and the city. Together they form an overall evaluation of how such matters should be resolved."
Dan Anderson – HT
Photo: Lehtikuva / Mikko Stig