On Sunday, September 3rd, a large anti-racism and anti-fascism demonstration brought together an historically significant crowd in Helsinki. The massive demonstration, organized by the "We Will Not Be Silent" working group consisting of over a hundred citizens, began at Senate Square and proceeded for over two hours toward Töölönlahti event park. As the first participants arrived at their destination, the last had not even departed yet. The demonstration proceeded peacefully and in good spirits.
According to the organizers' count, approximately 20,000 people participated in the march and the Töölönlahti event park concert. Throughout the day, a total of 15 speeches were given by experts on anti-racism and human rights, as well as representatives of groups experiencing racism in society. Despite the seriousness of the main message of the demonstration, a strong sense of community prevailed. The organizers aimed to provide a safe space for everyone to participate. A shorter accessible march route was arranged for those with mobility impairments. The event was trilingual and fully interpreted in sign language. The principles of diversity and non-discrimination were also evident in the actions of the demonstrators. People encouraged the speakers and performers and took exemplary care of one another. Cooperation with the Helsinki Police went smoothly, and the participants themselves spontaneously cleaned the event area at the end.
Anti-Racism Concerns All
The demonstration sent a strong anti-racist message to the Finnish Parliament, which reconvenes after the summer break this Tuesday. Citizens agreed that individuals known and recognized for their racist actions should not serve as ministers in the Finnish government. Many signs at the demonstration asked, "How could you not have known about the racism of the Finns Party?". Demonstrators believe that the government's racist actions affect Finland's international reputation, economic competitiveness, societal atmosphere, and people's trust and sense of security. At the end of the demonstration, Karri Paleface Miettinen, who led the "Allies' Choir," emphasized the responsibility of allies: "It is the duty of white people to use their privilege to promote equality and anti-racism. It is the civic duty of every citizen."
The speeches during the demonstration highlighted personal experiences of racism and stressed that racist opinions should not be conflated with freedom of speech. "Racist rhetoric is not about hurting someone's feelings. This is not about differences of opinion. It is about violence that affects not only 'someone out there' but me," stated Laura Eklund Nhaga in her powerful speech.