Finnish Arm of Extinction Rebellion Begins 10-Day Protest by Blocking Helsinki's Main Artery
06:07 GMT 30.09.2021 (Updated: 06:23 GMT 30.09.2021)
Last year, a similar protest was broken up by the police in a matter of several hours, who used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
A ten-day climate protest organised by Elopkapina, the Finnish arm of the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, began on Wednesday evening on Helsinki's main artery, Mannerheim Street.
The estimated 1,000 demonstrators urged the Finnish government to declare a climate and environmental emergency, and to create binding legislation that will achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, a decade ahead of the government's current goal of 2035, national broadcaster Yle reported
Helsinki police chief Heikki Porola said that the police had asked the organisers to move the demonstration to Kansalaistori square, where there would be less disruption to city centre traffic, but the request was refused. As explained by Elopkapina activist Elok Sloan, the request was turned down because the demonstration was specifically intended to cause disruption.
Ultimately, the police intervened to remove demonstrators from the site and restore traffic. In total, 141 protestors were apprehended. Nevertheless, Elokapina intends to continue as planned.
“We are prepared to continue for ten days in central Helsinki, or until the government declares a climate emergency and begins the necessary measures,” protester Aliisa Maunula told
However, the movement's plans to wreak more than a week of disruption in the capital were slammed by both opposition and government parties.
“There are many ways in Finland to express an opinion other than blocking the traffic on Mannerheim Street for several days,” chair of the ruling Social Democrats' parliamentary group, Antti Lindtman said, disapproving of Elokapina's disruptive ways.
Antti Häkkänen, the vice chairman of the opposition National Coalition Parties (NCP), admitted that everyone has a right to protest, but not in any location or under any conditions.
“Other people have the right to live a normal life, go to work, daycare and hobbies, and to enjoy freedom of movement. In other words, no one has the right to unreasonably infringe on the rights of others,” Häkkänen said.
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö indirectly commented on the environmental demonstration by calling on compatriots to take responsibility for climate change and law and order, “both and and the same time”.
A similar protest involving members of the Extinction Rebellion group last October was broken up by police after about six hours, during which pepper spray to disperse the protesters was used.
Earlier this month, motorists in the UK became to target of roadblocks by an environmental group called Insulate Britain, who demand efforts to improve house insulation and therefore reduce the amount of energy consumed in the country.