Member of the Parliament Ano Turtiainen, wearing a camouflage jacket with his back to the camera, addressed the crowd during a demonstration held in protest of coronavirus restrictions in Helsinki on Saturday, 20 March 2021. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)


A PRE-TRIAL INQUIRY has been opened into a demonstration organised in protest of coronavirus measures at Kansalaistori Square and Senate Square in Helsinki on Saturday.

Helsinki Police Department on Saturday revealed it had given its approval for organising a gathering of 15 groups consisting of a maximum of members each at the squares, as long as the groups maintained a safe distance to each other.

It is clear that the organisers did not follow the plan and that the demonstration was illegal, chief inspector Jarmo Heinonen stated to YLE on Saturday. The demonstration drew to the two squares as many as 400 people, who marched as a single group, failing to both observe social distancing and wear face masks.

Police had to remind the organisers and participants a number of times about the restrictions on public gatherings.

Officers at Helsinki Police Department are investigating whether one or more of the organisers committed an offence.

“The situation is very challenging also for us because, in normal circumstances, this would’ve been a peaceful demonstration that ended without incident,” chief inspector Katja Nissinen told Helsingin Sanomat. “When we’re talking about people protesting against the coronavirus restrictions, we’re talking about people who are indifferent about the restrictions and can infect each other. But we tried to manage this through conciliation and dialogue.”

One person was brought into custody for causing disturbance and failing to comply with police orders outside the Parliament House.

National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen viewed that police took the right approach to the demonstration by seeking to promote conciliation and managing to ensure the protest remained peaceful.

“It’s my understanding that the group of protesters didn’t honour the agreements made with the police. So, should we’ve used force to break apart what was ultimately a group of non-violent protesters? I think the police took the right approach to the situation and promoted conciliation,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat.

He also pointed out that the fact that police officers have not been vaccinated limits the options at their disposal to intervene in situations such as a demonstration.

“I think it’s an enormous problem. You can’t deploy crowd-control police for instance because they operate yardarm to yardarm and it’s impossible to keep a safe distance,” explained Kolehmainen. “By vaccinating police against the coronavirus, they’d be more capable in an operational sense.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT