People demonstrate in Helsinki, Finland on October 13, 2023 in support of Palestinian civilians

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A peaceful protest in support of Palestinian civilians was halted by the police and not allowed to proceed to the Israeli Embassy on Yrjönkatu street on October 13. The demonstration, which began at around 6:00 PM from the Postitalo in central Helsinki, saw the attendance of at least several hundred people, including numerous families with children, before setting off towards the embassy. Despite its peaceful nature, police stationed at the Yrjönkatu intersection and behind barricades ensured protesters could not reach the embassy’s vicinity. 

The crowd was stopped at Simonkatu near Narinkkatori square. Mounted and riot police were positioned strategically to halt the march towards Yrjönkatu. Nonetheless, the protesters remained undeterred, broadcasting music and speeches. Many speakers expressed staunch opposition to Israel’s actions against Palestinians. By 7:00 PM, the protesters began to disperse peacefully from the location. 

An Amnesty International human rights observer estimated a total turnout of approximately 500 individuals. This is the second protest in support of Palestine in Helsinki. A previous demonstration on the 9th of October also gathered hundreds of people in central Helsinki.

Protesters speak out

One protester, identified as Karim, told HS that he was protesting against what he perceives as genocide. Responding to questions about the actions of Hamas, Karim portrayed the occurrences as resistance against decades-long oppression, citing the lack of basic necessities such as electricity, water, and food in Gaza. Another protester, Moe, condemned the portrayal of Palestinians as terrorists, likening them to indigenous peoples resisting colonisation in Australia and America. He criticised the dominant narrative, feeling that issues are too often viewed through a lens of anti-Semitism. Moe expressed a desire for media coverage to showcase Jewish individuals who support Palestine.

 

Chants and signs

Throughout the demonstration, various chants were echoed by the crowd in Finnish, English, and Arabic, such as "Hey hey, ho ho, occupation got to go!" and "Free, free Palestine!" Palestinian flags were notably visible, and many held signs portraying Israel as a terrorist state and calling for peace for civilians.

Police were heavily present but the protests went on peacefully till the end.

Meanwhile, isolated shouts supporting Israel were heard from bystanders as the protesters advanced. Similar protests have been conducted in other Finnish cities, such as Turku and Tampere, and a pro-Israel demonstration is scheduled in front of the Parliament House on Sunday from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

 

Concerns amid military operations and siege

This protest comes amidst heightened tensions in the region. The Israeli army has indicated plans to conduct significant military operations in the Gaza City area in the coming days, urging all civilians in Gaza City to evacuate. In the 5 days of constant bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Israel has dropped about 6,000 bombs on Gaza between October 7 and 12. According CNN at least 1,800 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza from Israeli strikes. The death toll includes 583 children and 351 women, An additional 7,388 people have been injured, including 1,901 children and 1,185 women. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth with over 2 million people living in 227 square kilometres.

Israel has blockaded Gaza for a week and is not allowing water, food, medicine or electricity to enter the enclave. ”We are imposing a complete siege on Gaza,” said Yoav Gallant, Israeli defence minister. ”There will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything will be closed. We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly.”

Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip is a "clear-cut war crime," as starvation is used as a weapon in "warfare" and more than 2 million residents are subjected to collective punishment, according to a regional director for the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In an interview with Anadolu, Ahmed Benchemsi, advocacy and communications director for HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, said the Israeli government was punishing the entire population after a surprise attack by Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas.

There have been numerous large scale protests globally in support of Palestinians with hundreds of thousands of people marching after Friday prayers in muslim countries. Large demonstration have also been held in almost every western capital and New York.

 

HT

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