Vice President of Helsinki City Council Harry Bogomoloff of the center-right National Coalition Party has triggered national outrage with a post he made in a closed Facebook group for inhabitants of the Kulosaari district, the national broadcaster Yle reported.
"In the seaside park (northern shore), there were three Balkan-dark men hanging out without any reason to be there. This is information for all," Harry Bogomoloff was quoted as writing by Hufvudstadsbladet.
Shortly afterward, the Finnish social media exploded with angry comments from politicians and ordinary Finns alike.
Green Party MP and Helsinki city council member Ozan Yanar questioned his fellow councilman's provocative phrasing.
"How can the city council look upon us 'dark' men with attitudes like this?" he tweeted, asking what action the National Coalition Party will take.
Miten on mahdollista, että Helsingin valtuuston varapuheenjohtaja käyttää tällaista kieltä? Mitenköhän hän katsoo meitä valtuuston ”tummia” jäseniä, jos asenne on tällainen? Mihin toimiin aiotte ryhtyä vai sallitaanko tälläinen käytös @Kokoomus_Hki ja @Vapaavuori? Pöyristyttävää. pic.twitter.com/LuDwgQr9AJ— Ozan Yanar (@yanarozan) May 8, 2018
Bogomoloff's comment also made Green Youth member Brigita Krasniqi see red. Krasniqi, who is of Kosovo-Albanian origin, called herself a "Balkan-dark woman" and emphasized that this comment was a token of everyday racism.
Left Alliance city councilman Suldaan Said Ahmed wrote that Bogomoloff no longer has his confidence as the vice president of the council.
"It is absolutely unthinkable that such a person who whips up hate and fear is the vice president of our city council," Ahmed wrote.
Some comments from ordinary users were far less quotable due to obscenities.
Bogomoloff himself stressed that the post was made in a group, where information about suspicious men is often shared. By his own admission, he failed to see anything racist with the post.
"I do not understand those who interpret this as something racist. The word choice may not be the best possible, but I do not accuse anyone," Bogomoloff said, stressing that he had no personal regrets about it.
Later, though, he apologized in the same closed Facebook group, as quoted by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
"I apologize for my post in the Kulosaaren Perheet Facebook group. My post as deputy chairman of the city council was tantamount to bad judgment and it did not correspond to either Helsinki City or the National Coalition Party's values," Bogomoloff was quoted as writing.
Bogomoloff pyysi anteeksi Facebook-päivitystään "balkanintummista miehistä" – ”Päivitykseni oli valtuuston varapuheenjohtajana huono” https://t.co/9GjMO6FdPv— Helsingin Sanomat (@hsfi) May 8, 2018
The National Coalition Party was quick to distance itself from Bogomoloff's initial post. Later, City Council President Risto Rautava praised Bogomoloff's apology and his professionalism as a politician.
Kulosaari or Brändö is an island neighborhood of Helsinki with a mixed Finnish and Swedish-speaking population of about 4,000 people.
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The National Coalition Party, which was founded in 1918, is one of Finland's major parties. It is currently part of the governing coalition, having won about 18 percent of the vote in the recent general election.