Rival protesters take to Helsinki streets on Independence Day

Thousands of marchers took to Helsinki's streets on Independence Day in rival events from right wing groups and anti-Nazi activists.

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File picture showing detail on Soldiers of Odin jacket, Helsinki, 6th December 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Police in Helsinki made a number of arrests on Friday evening, as rival protesters took to the streets of the capital on Independence Day.

A number of people were arrested on the metro on the way to protests, while several others were arrested a different locations in the city.

Around 300 people showed up to a Soldiers of Odin march in Kansalaistori. Many wore the vigilante group’s distinctive black bomber jackets, with patches indicating they had come from southern towns and cities like Helsinki, Kotka and Kouvola – as well as further afield like Mikkeli, Jyväskylä and Tallinn.

Soldiers of Odin was founded in Kemin in Northern Finland back in 2015, with a self-declared mission to keep the streets safe from immigrants.

Marchers chanted derogatory slogans about President Sauli Niinistö, caretaker Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP), Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green), among others.

Many covered their faces with masks or wore dark glasses to try and hide their identities, while most wore camouflage trousers and combat boots – and others waved black Soldiers of Odin flags.

Annual 612 torchlight parade

Police say the sixth annual 612 parade attracted around 1500 participants, with the torchlight marchers meeting in Töölö.

Although organisers don’t encourage participants to wear any particular identifying logo, and insist its a show of Finnish patriotism for Independence Day, in previous supporters of the ethno-nationalist Suomen Sisu group have attended, as well as right wing politicians and members of the now-banned Nordic Resistance movement – as well as local residents.

Police arrested four people at this even, including one person who threw a firecracker at the crowd.

Anti-Nazi rally 

Meanwhile the biggest protest of Friday night was the anti-Nazi demonstration organised in Kamppi.

Police estimate 2700 people showed up there with home-made banners and chanting anti-Nazi, and anti-fascist slogans.