The entrance to Valkea Shopping Centre in Oulu on 14 June 2024. Two stabbings with possibly racist motives have occurred in the shopping centre in the past week, raising concerns among the immigrant community in Oulu. (Timo Heikkala – Str / Lehtikuva)

Domestic
Tools
Typography

OFFICERS at Oulu Police Department have confirmed that a second, possibly racist stabbing took place in Valkea Shopping Centre on Tuesday, 18 June.

On Wednesday, a police spokesperson revealed that investigators have found indications that the act may have been modelled after the stabbing that took place in the same shopping centre five days earlier, on Thursday, 13 June.

The suspect in the first case is a notorious far-right activist with a history of violent crime, whereas the suspect in the second case is tentatively believed to have had a racist motive. People of foreign backgrounds were targeted in both attacks.

Police rushed to the shopping centre at about 9.30pm on Tuesday, responding to a call indicating that a stabbing had taken place and that the suspect had been apprehended by security guards. Oulu Police Department on Wednesday confirmed that the incident is being investigated as attempted manslaughter in co-operation with social welfare authorities on account that the suspect is an over 15-year-old minor.

“As far as his age is concerned, he has criminal liability for his actions,” reads an earlier press release from the police department.

The victim – described by police as a local adult male of foreign background – sustained multiple stab wounds in the attack, but he is not in mortal danger.

Last week, the 33-year-old far-right activist stabbed a 12-year-old child of foreign background and tried to stab another child, a 14-year-old of foreign background, in the shopping centre. The District Court of Oulu on Monday detained him for probable cause of two attempted murders.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) and President Alexander Stubb both commented on the stabbings on Wednesday.

“News about the Oulu stabbings are repulsive. As are the possibly racist motives of the acts. There is no room for racism in Finland. Violence must always be condemned,” Orpo stated on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Stubb underlined that everyone in the country has the right to feel safe.

“Police suspect that the motive was racist. I firmly condemn racism in all its forms. We must not give an inch to racism or racist violence in Finland,” he commented. “Only together can we weed out racism. Only together can we build a safe Finland.”

Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday that she condemns violence by far-right organisations, adding that the recent incidents suggest a need for legislation that enables police to conduct body searches in designated high-risk areas without suspicion. Such legislation has been enacted in, for example, Denmark.

“The Oulu city centre is now an area where it should be possible to check people’s backpacks and take away knives without a criminal suspicion,” she said to the newspaper.

Rantanen added that she agrees with the message sent by the president and prime minister, with one addition: violent acts must be condemned regardless of why they are committed.

“I’m concerned about violence in general in Finland,” she responded when asked if she is worried about far-right violence. “Police statistics show that youth are committing more violent acts and robberies. We also have a bigger problem on our hands. The far right and extremist thinking are one thing.”

With the stabbings stirring up concerns among the immigrant community in Oulu, Helsingin Sanomat asked the minister what she would say to the parents of non-white children in the roughly 200,000-resident city.

“My starting point is that no one in this country should have fear for their children, no matter if it’s immigrant children in Oulu or native-born children in the capital region,” she replied. “We can’t have a society where you have to fear that your child is stabbed or that your child’s brand clothes are robbed with a knife.”

The stabbings have also set off discussion about the role of political rhetoric. Tuija Saresma, a professor of cultural studies at the University of Jyväskylä, told Helsingin Sanomat after the first stabbing that discussion about racism has become constantly more permissive, a development that she fears increases the risk of extremist acts no matter how small the group of people capable of committing such acts.

Rantanen told Helsingin Sanomat that the responsibility for violent acts rests solely with whoever is “wielding the knife against another”. “Politicians talk politics,” she said.

Also she has come under fire for a questionable, since-deleted play on the Finnish word ‘sinisilmäinen’ on her website in the run-up to the 2023 parliamentary elections. “We mustn’t be so blue-eyed that soon we won’t be blue-eyed,” the website read in mid-June 2023.

‘Sinisilmäinen’ translates literally to blue-eyed and figuratively to gullible and naive.

“I don’t think that I’ve spread racist thinking in Finland. And what does that have to do with this stabbing in Oulu?” she responded when asked about the detail by Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Partners