The killing by far-right extremists of the 28-year old Jimi Karttunen has triggered a reaction by Finland’s silent anti-racist majority, who took to the streets.
According to Helsinki police, 15,000 people marched in central Helsinki on Saturday; thousands more took to the streets in similar events around the country. On their Facebook page, organizers invited citizens to end a “culture of silence.”
The motto of the demonstrators was “Stop this Now” (“Peli Poikki!”); they shouted “No to Nazism,” “Let’s Stop this Game,” and “Break the Silence.”
Protestors were met by smaller but militant far-right groups, who often patrol Finish cities and call themselves “Soldiers of Odin.” They shouted “close the borders” and “Enough is Enough!”
The killing of Karttunen appears to have been accidental. He was walking past an anti-immigration protest earlier this month and was seen spitting in the direction of far-right activists.
The furious 26-year old neo-Nazi leader of the so-called Finnish Resistance Movement, Jesse Torniainen, kicked him in the chest. Karttunen fell, struck his head, and died a week later of a cerebral hemorrhage. Torniainen is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
On Saturday, demonstrators held a minute of silence in Karttunen’s honour.
Prime Minister Juha Sipila joined the demonstrations on Saturday, marching in downtown Kuopio. “The rise of violent extremism is a concern to the large majority of Finns,” Sipila told local media. He vowed his government would follow up with concrete measures against xenophobia.
As elsewhere in Scandinavia, in 2015 there was a record of 32,500 asylum applications in Finland. The far-right has seen increasing support.