The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) organized a National Socialist demonstration “Kohti vapautta” on the 6th of December 2017 in Helsinki. The police did nothing to prevent the demonstration, but practically assured its realization instead. In many European countries similar events are prohibited, especially the use of openly National Socialist rhetoric and imagery. Hitler-stickers were handed out to people attending the demonstration, the participants gave Nazi salutes during the demonstration and the speeches glorified national socialism, death and revolution. Approximately 300 people participated in the event. In the following we take a closer look at the participants: who were marching in this extremist demonstration and which members of different right-wing groups had traveled to Finland in order to take part in the far-right demonstrations.
The leadership of the Nordic Resistance Movement´s Finnish branch together with the majority of the members were, of course, attending their own demonstration (others were probably reporting online and/or preparing after party for the demonstration.) The leader, Antti Niemi, marched in the middle of the demonstration, surrounded by other activists of the movement. The person who encouraged the crowd to shout protest slogans was Petri Nordman from Tampere (also having the same task in the NRM´s demonstration in Tampere 21th of October 2017). Nordman has been active in the movement for a long time and is originally from Vantaa.
The security guards and the people responsible for the event were almost the same as in the NRM´s demonstration in Tampere. One of the main security guards was Jesse Torniainen, infamous for killing Jimi Karttunen in 2016. Others were, for instance, Tomi Tiihonen and Rami Rantanen from Jyväskylä, Niklas Suomi from Porvoo and Rami Termonen from Helsinki. The participants came from, in addition to Helsinki, all over the country, from Tampere, Ylivieska, Oulu, Porvoo, Pori, Jyväskylä and some other cities. The event was filmed by their IT-representative Paavo Laitinen, by whose name the Kohti vapautta web page made for advertising the demonstration has been registered. Torniainen was seen filming with a video camera all day long, too. The person responsible for live streaming and social media updating was Santeri Keränen from Oulu.
When the NRM´s Finnish and Swedish activists arrived at the Mäntymäki area behind Helsinki Kisahalli – sports hall, they formed a flag formation, in front of which four speeches were given. The following people gave the speeches in this order: the local group leader Cari Murto from Pori, the local group leader Santeri Keränen from Oulu, the leader of the Swedish branch and the entire Nordic Resistance Movement Simon Lindberg, and Janne Moilanen, an active member of the local group of Helsinki. Moilanen´s speech culminated in the end, when the NRM´s members set off green lit flares, Moilanen gave a Nazi salute and made the crowd shout “Long live victory! Long live victory! Revolution!”. Many participants of the demonstration started to give Nazi salutes, too.
Lit flares and Nazi salutes seem to be of no importance to the Finnish police, even though in Sweden (let alone Germany) the police announced already before the demonstrations in Gothenburg, that giving Nazi salutes or using nazi logos should mean pressing charges for agitation against an ethnic group. Nevertheless, the attitude of the police towards Nazis seemed to be ignorant, because after the demonstration some of the NRM´s members assaulted a person in Töölö. The open subjectivity of the police challenges anti-fascist work and can increasingly attract foreign nazis to participate in the upcoming demonstrations. Already in the NRM´s demonstration in Tampere, Swedish Nazis commented how great it is to demonstrate in Finland, because the police do not do anything to stop Nazi salutes, far-right symbols and let them assault people outside their own demonstration. Before Independence Day the police announced they will apply for a temporary ban for the organisation if the Nordic Resistance Movement is permitted to appeal the sentence of the Pirkanmaa district court to the Turku court of appeal. It remains to be seen, what this would mean in practice.
Other Finnish participants
The only Finnish group announcing in advance its participation to the NRM´s national socialist demonstration was Soldiers of Odin (SoO), whose members lined up with signature vests under their own banners and two flags. SoO is nowadays just a cheaper version of the NRM and therefore it is expected that members of SoO will join in the more organized NRM if the NRM can continue operating in Finland. The small amount of participants in the Soldiers of Odin´s bloc speaks its own language especially when it comes to the present state of the organisation. Based on the city badges on their vests there were members from all over the country (in addition to Helsinki at least from Jyväskylä, Järvenpää, Kouvola, Jämsä, Riihimäki, Mikkeli and Asikkala), but still there were barely 30 people in the SoO bloc. The same day in Kemi SoO organised its own Independence Day torch march with twenty or so members from the organisation´s northern sections.
After Indepenence Day the NRM´s local group leader from Oulu, Santeri Keränen, was bragging in the NRM´s own radio program about the participation of SoO in the national socialist demonstrations first in Tampere in October and now on Indepence Day in Helsinki. According to Keränen the participation of SoO in these national socialist demonstrations shows that SoO have revealed who they stand with and have clearly chosen their side. This does not come as a surprise for those who have been following the activities of the organisation, because already from the very beginning the founder of SoO, Mika Ranta, has declared himself a nazi.
Correspondigly, also a bunch of boneheads showed up carrying a Blood & Honour -banner. Blood & Honour is an informal network of the neo-Nazi music scene, in which many of the NRM´s Finnish members have been active before joining the organisation. Some members of NRM’s Finnish section are still associated with B&H. The NRM´s Finnish leader Antti Niemi, for instance, is a member of Blood and Honour´s local group of Orivesi, and many of the NRM´s leadership are playing in white power music bands or organizing far-right concerts.
A couple dozen members from Rajat kiinni group, Suomi Ensin group and other nationalist groups took part in the demonstration. Olli Heikkilä, Mikko Hamunen and Pertti Nykänen, known for their Youtube live streams from racist demonstrations, were also participating. Heikkilä and Hamunen are members of Suomen Sisu, and both ran for the Tampere City Council in the municipal election in 2017 as the Finns Party -candidates. Hamunen (69 votes, not elected) is a member of the Finns Party and Heikkilä (106 votes, not elected) was running as an independent True Finns candidate.
In the Kohti Vapautta -demonstration the official delegations of Swedish and German neo-Nazis were represented and some random participants from other countries, too. From Sweden there were approximately 15 members from the Nordic Resistance Movement. Among them was the leader of the entire Nordic Resistance Movement, Simon Lindberg, and Pär Sjögren, the leader of the local groups from Dalaland and Värmland. Sjögren was streaming live for the Swedish branch´s web tv, Nordfront TV (NTV) and by disguising himself as a fake journalist tried to troll and disturb anti-fascists.
From Germany, a local section of the national socialist NPD party´s Junge Nationaldemokraten– Youth organisation was present. The leader of the youth organisation, Maik Müller, appeared with three other German neo-Nazis. Müller is one of the NRM Finland’s main contact people in the neo-Nazi movement in Central Europe, and he has visited Finland several times during this decade (for instance, Müller has been lecturing in Helsinki in a Taistele vastaan seminar organized by the NRM in 2011 and joined the afterparty of the first 612-demonstration in 2014). Finnish Nazis have paid follow-up visits to Müller, who is one of the main organizers of the biggest neo-Nazi demonstration in Germany held every February annually in Dresden and he made its official announcement to the police this year.
As a conclusion, the Nordic Resistance Movement succeeded in gathering surprisingly many participants for the openly National Socialist march in addition to its own members and expand the demonstration from the last year. There were participants from different far-right groups from Finland and abroad in the demonstration. Remarkably, the leaders of Suomen Sisu and Sarastus did not participate. Suomen Sisu had said they will withdraw from co-operation with the NRM already before the demonstration in Tampere in October. In spite of this almost all the participants in the national socialist demonstration continued to the 612 -demonstration. The members of the NRM were wearing organisational symbols and therefore broke the prohibition of wearing political symbols in the 612-demonstration. On the night after Independence Day, Timo Hännikäinen who is one of the main organizers of the demonstration, commented in an angry tone on Facebook on Jesse Torniainen´s messing around in the demonstration.
We thank Sören Kohlhuber and Fabian Schumann, who were filming different demonstrations on Independence Day and gave us the permission to use the pictures. Some of the photos have been cropped from the original ones. Kohlhuber and Schumann follow and document far-right movements of different countries. Follow them on Twitter: @SoerenKohlhuber and @schumann_fabian.
Pictures of Finnish Independence Day 2017: