Nordic Resistance Movement banned in Finland – the history of the court case and what the Nazis are doing now

The NRM in Finland have abandoned their traditional logo during the court case. Their flags with tyr runes have not been seen on Finnish streets since 2018. Picture from a Nazi demonstration in Turku 18.8 2018. Picture: MTV3.
 

The pan-Nordic national socialist organization Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) have been banned in Finland by the Supreme Court, but the Nazis are continuing their activities under new names. In this article we will present an overview of the legal process that lasted three years, what the Nazis did during it and how their activities have changed. This article was originally published in Finnish and Swedish by the anti-fascist Varis network and is now translated to English to provide an analysis to international readers.

The lengthy court case against the Finnish branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement finally came to an end on September 22nd, 2020 when the Supreme Court in Helsinki decided to outlaw the national socialist organization. The start of this legal process began already in September 2016, when anti-fascist Jimi Karttunen died after being assaulted by NRM group leader Jesse Torniainen at a Nazi leafletting action in central Helsinki. This assault was the starting point for public debates about the legality of the violent Nazi organization, and in March 2017 the National Police Board declared that investigations were underway. The investigation and subsequent court case have since then passed through all levels of the Finnish court system since the outlawing of political organizations is uncommon and this would make a legal precedent for similar cases.

Three and a half years later the Supreme Court handed down their judgement: the NRM would not be allowed to exist in Finland. In reality it is not so easy to get rid of a militant Nazi organization, so in this article we will shortly explain the history of the court case and how the NRM have responded to it.

The history of the court case 2017-2020

NRM leaders in Pirkanmaa District Court in October 2017. From left to right: Antti-Pekka Lehto, Tomi Tiihonen, Jesse Torniainen and Antti Niemi.

The Finnish branch of the pan-Nordic NRM was founded in 2008 but became really active after 2010 when their members began assaulting and disturbing political events, spaces and people they consider to be their enemies. During the court case the authorities revealed that they had considered outlawing the organization already in 2013 after a knife attack at the Jyväskylä library, but since that didn´t happen the NRM were allowed to continue their use of violence and recruitment. The authorities did not do much at all until Jimi Karttunen was killed in 2016, and Finland became the first Nordic country to take legislative action against the organization (the main organization in Sweden have been in existence over two decades without being outlawed).

The behavior of the NRM in Finland have appeared quite disorganized since 2017, since the Nazis have used much resources to spread propaganda and information about their own court case while simultaneously organizing demonstrations. When analyzing leaked messages from the international Nazi forum Iron March, one can assume that NRM took inspiration from how the far-right in other countries responded to similar bans and decided to go for the image of martyrdom. One clear example is the UK Nazi organization National Action that the Finnish NRM had personal contacts with. The NRM defense in court consisted mainly of appealing to freedom of speech, which is ironic considering how the Nazis themselves have vowed to remove these rights from everybody else at first chance.

”Freedom of speech!”. The NRM claiming a right (that they in reality hate) at a Nazi demonstration in Tampere, September 2017. 
Antti Niemi, the leader of the Finnish branch of the NRM at their Independence Day demonstration in 2017. Niemi and the rest of the leadership used to lead demonstrations and marches but in 2019 and after he could not be seen at street events, fearing legal consequences.

In September 2017, the NRM decided to arrange a demonstration in Tampere a week before the first round in Pirkanmaa District Court, and the Nazis chose to present themselves as “defenders of free speech” in their propaganda. In hindsight we can conclude that that from this moment on, the NRM lost their momentum and became increasingly reactive. After 2017 the organization came under so much pressure from authorities and anti-fascists that most energy went into reacting to such initiatives. During 2017 the leadership still dared to openly lead the demonstrations in Tampere and in Helsinki on Independence Day, as well as presenting themselves on their websites. Around the same time the NRM began slowly distancing themselves from the Nazi marches on Independence Day, claiming that they were no longer in charge of organizing them. This was of course just lies, which anti-fascists and sharp journalists proved several times.

The NRM began organizing Nazi marches named Kohti vapautta (”towards freedom”) on Independence Day in 2016. The first year they still openly promoted it as NRM with their own logos. 

2018: Court of appeals, party projects and charity associations. The Nordic Resistance Movement abandon their flags 

In 2018 the NRM continued the strategy of gradually anonymizing their activities. As a part of this process they stopped presenting their members online, removed their previously published descriptions of the organizational structure and removed their web shop and podcasts. In the end nobody published on the Kansallinen vastarinta website under their own names, and the as of May 2020 all updates had ceased. During this year NRM and its members however founded several “new” groups and websites which will be presented below.

During 2018 NRM still used their original name and green flags with the týr rune logo used by all the organizations in the Nordic countries. They also held many propaganda actions that targeted youth and school kids, as well as publicly awarding their activists. In 2018 the torturer and murderer Rami Joukanen became “Activist of the year” but after this the organization stopped doing this publicly – one of many activities NRM quit when going underground.

In August 2018 the NRM organized the last event under their own name in Finland: a demonstration called “Kukkavirta 188” together with the far-right coalition Kansallismielisten liittouma. This demonstration in Turku also featured tens of neo-Nazi activists from the main NRM organization in Sweden, which also had showed up the previous year in Tampere. The demonstration also proved how the NRM are not isolated from the Finnish far right and populist right wing, with Soldiers of Odin and Finns party politicians gladly participating in the event.

The traditional NRM logo (left) and the imitated Suomalaisapu association logo (right).
The Finnish NRM leader Antti Niemi posing with the new and old logos.
Antti Niemi has led the Finnish NRM branch since 2015 but has since 2019 only been publicly active in the Suomalaisapu “charity” association.

While preparing to appear in the Court of Appeals in 2018, the NRM founded two new associations. The goal of the first association was to collect the 5000 signatures required to register a political party and the other association were to continue the Suomalaisapu (“Finn Help”) charity that was earlier administered by the NRM. The party project Kansan yhtenäisyys (“the Peoples Unity”) was a total failure and was abandoned within one year since the Nazis could not get the signatures required. It is unclear whether the party project was coordinated by the Swedish leadership of the NRM or if it was a local Finnish project rushed together due to the court case. In Sweden the NRM had tried to establish a parliamentary wing the same year but abandoned the idea when they failed to interest voters. 

Finnish newspaper Seura could also reveal that the NRM activist Jesse “Eppu” Torniainen had registered companies under the names “Altstadt OÜ” and “Haamer-Kirjastus OÜ” in Estonia during 2018. Apart from founding new associations and front companies it is probable that the NRM have as of now begun handling all of their finances through personal accounts or in cash.

The Turku Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court judgement to ban the NRM in the autumn of 2018, and shortly after a group of Finnish and Swedish NRM activists marched through the streets of Helsinki with their flags in a surprise protest. This would be one of the last times the rune logo was seen publicly in Finland. In 2018 the NRM had been active in Finland for a decade, and the Nazis decided to boast about their achievements one last time before being banned. The NRM then publicly admitted to being co-founders of the “612” torch parade as well (another Independence Day event with a more toned-down nationalist and neo-fascist image). To anti-fascists this was no news since the connection had been evident in photographs and coordination since the beginning.

Just before the Independence Day in December 2018 the NRM decided to appeal to the Supreme Court in a last-minute attempt to save their tradition of arranging a national socialist march in Helsinki. Anti-fascists mobilized once more against both the openly Nazi “Kohti vapautta” demonstration as well as against the fascist “612” torch parade.

The Nordic Resistance Movement in Finland have now abandoned their traditional tyr rune logo (right) and begun using the Kohti vapautta “tursaansydän” swastika (center) as well as openly provoking with Third Reich swastikas (left)

The Kohti vapautta demonstration on Independence Day 2018 is as of now the last time the NRM independently organized a public demonstration in Finland. The final event did not go according to their plans either: the NRM brought Nazi Germany swastika flags to the event, which were quickly confiscated and the activists carrying them were arrested by the police.

2019: Kohti vapautta and the NS youth

In the beginning of 2019, the NRM and the rest of the Finnish far-right were quite inactive. This can be seen in the context of a larger trend in the Nordic countries, which according to researchers show that far-right street activity post-2018 have diminished after many years on the rise. This was the case also for the NRM in Sweden, which had less activities than before and experienced a crisis in August 2019 when several key activists left to form a rival group under the name Nordisk Styrka

In Finland, many of the older NRM activists became inactive during the year. The veterans still visible in the organization include leader Antti Niemi and Petri Nordman in the Pirkanmaa region, Otto Rutanen and Janne Moilanen in the metropolitan area, Cari Murto and Maria Pöysti in the Satakunta region and Tomi Tiihonen and Paavo Laitinen in Central Finland. It is probable that other key activists are still active but are staying underground in fear of legal consequences. Some of the newer recruits have been active last year, including Ville Nurmela and Mimmi Kallila in Satakunta, Harri Aurema in Northern Ostrobothnia, Juha Kortelainen and Toni Toorikka in Pirkanmaa and Jani Pihlaja and Rami Joukanen in the metropolitan area. During the last two years the NRM have mostly been active in Helsinki, Tampere and Pori, while the local groups in Turku and Jyväskylä have become inactive or stopped functioning.

NRM members in the Metso library in Tampere. In the background from left to right: Jari Mäki, Petri Nordman and Tapio Rantanen. Antti Niemi is the chairman of the meeting and close the camera Terhi Kiemunki (previously a Finns party politician, now a far-right organizer)

The traditional NRM rune logo was not seen in public during 2019, but their activists appeared occasionally with their “new” organizations. NRM leader Antti Niemi and other Nazis in the Pirkanmaa area focused on developing the Suomalaisapu charity. Most NRM members from the Tampere/Pirkanmaa area became active in Suomalaisapu and used the name to book meeting spaces in libraries and apply for a table at an NGO fair (the latter plan failed when anti-fascists exposed them). In Tampere there were also some activity under the Kohti vapautta name.

The NRM began using the Kohti vapautta name in 2019 and is still doing so, even though the activity has decreased since the beginning.
The NRM doing a propaganda action under the Kohti vapautta name in Pori, 14th of July 2019. NRM veteran activist Petri Nordman holding the microphone.
Kohti vapautta logo and flags. The NRM have used the Finnish “tursaansydän” swastika version on their new stickers, banners and flyers.

In March 2019, the Supreme Court allowed the NRM to appeal and have their case tested one last time. The Supreme Court did however issue a temporary operating ban for the organization. In April, the NRM appeared with Kohti vapautta banners in Helsinki on Adolf Hitlers birthday, declaring that a “new” national socialist movement had been born. The police began investigating whether Kohti vapautta could be considered a NRM operation, and as of now this investigation is being examined by the court.

Regardless of how the authorities react to this development, it is obvious that Kohti vapautta is just the NRM rebranded. The organization has continued all previous activities including leafletting, nightly sticker campaigns and posing with banners at random places. During 2019 and 2020 the activity has significantly decreased though.

While the NRM have been able to attract a couple of new members during this time, the organization appears to suffer from a lack of active members which explains the limited activity. This is not surprising, because who would join a banned organization unless they were already fanatic national socialists?

Screenshot from the “NS Youth” website.

In the spring of 2019, a new group under the name Kansallissosialistinuoret (“National Socialist Youth”) appeared, posting pictures of stickers and banners in the style made popular by the NRM. According to themselves, they are a collective for national socialists between the ages 13 and 25 and they appear to be either a new youth organization for the NRM or very close to them since they publish writings of NRM members on their website. The website mainly consists of vulgar antisemitic pictures and other Nazi propaganda.

In the summer of 2019, the NRM leader Antti Niemi participated in a scandalous summer camp arranged by neo-Nazis and Finns party members of the Kansallismielisten liittouma coalition mentioned earlier. The coalition has been a prime mover in bringing the far-right together in Finland and made headlines when it was revealed that participants had been shooting small arms at pictures of left-wing politicians.

As earlier mentioned, the year 2019 was a year of crisis for the NRM in all Nordic countries. In Sweden the founder and previous leader of the organization, Klas Lund left the NRM together with many key activists to form Nordisk Styrka due to internal disputes. Many Norwegian and Danish members also joined him, and the Danish branch began collapsing when most of the remaining activists are facing long sentences for criminal activity. This far the Finnish members seem to remain loyal to the present NRM leader Simon Lindberg, but they are of course facing their own difficulties.

During the court case the organization has increasingly focused on specific “enemies” in their propaganda and actions, especially Jews and sexual minorities. In late 2019, coordinated vandalism against Jewish cemeteries and properties was done in all the Nordic countries, which later was found to be ordered by NRM leader Simon Lindberg in a Danish police investigation. This shows that the Finnish branch of the NRM is still co-operating with the Nordic network even though they claimed that the vandalism in Finland was done by “anonymous national socialists”.

In December 2019, the temporary operating ban issued by the Supreme Court finally had some effect, when the police denied the NRM the permit to arrange an Independence Day march regardless if it was arranged under the Kohti vapautta name. The Nazis still managed to march since the far-right “vigilante group” Soldiers of Odin applied for a permit, but having to march under the guise of another group was a hard blow to the self esteem of the NRM who try to present themselves as “the avant garde of the NS revolution”. Around this time, it really started to show how frustrated and pressured the NRM had become after years of legal procedures and anti-fascist counter-mobilization. The decrease in public activity during the last years is a trend apparent among all the Finnish extra-parliamentary far-right.

Simon Lindberg, the Nordic leader of the NRM speaking at the Independence Day march in Helsinki, 2019. Lindbergs participation shows how co-ordinated the pan-Nordic organization is even though the NMR claimed that the demonstration was arranged by “independent national socialists”

2020: Supreme Court, Corona, Nazi vandalism and ”new” groups 

The Supreme Court had initially announced that a verdict would be given in early 2020, but the procedure was delayed until autumn. This was probably due to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the separate investigation of Kohti vapautta group started the year before. In 2020 the NRM also founded ”new” groups, websites and Telegram channels.

The NRM had less public activity during 2020 than before, but simultaneously Nazi vandalism against monuments and buildings increased. As we mentioned earlier, the antisemitic NRM campaign in the Nordic countries in late 2019 also included Finnish targets. In January 2020, the synagogue in Turku was vandalized and Ville Nurmela burned an Israeli flag at an antisemitic street action by the NRM in Tampere. Nurmela also attacked a middle-aged Uusikaupunki woman in her doorway when she protested against him distributing Nazi flyers. The Nazi Telegram channels have also published pictures of vandalism against the offices of political parties in several cities, especially in the city of Kotka. In September two HBTQIA associations had their spaces vandalized, which the Nazis posted on Telegram to scare sexual minorities. It is yet to be seen if this type of vandalism will become a primary activity for the Nazis also after the NRM has been banned.

Petri Nordman, a key activist of the NRM (to the right) together with an unidentified Nazi. This ”blackface” action in Jyväskylä on March 14th, 2020 is one of the few embarrassing public activities the Nazis have managed to do during the Covid pandemic.

During 2020, the NRM have made a few public appearances and performances in different cities regardless of the pandemic. In a text published on the Kohti vapautta website, the organization hoped that the pandemic and crisis would give new energy to the stagnated movement. The Kohti vapautta site is still reporting on Nazi actions but have now begun to censor the faces of their activists. The organization is becoming increasingly secretive and anonymous, which makes it harder for outsiders to approach them.

Another example of this anonymity is the decision to move the flow of information away from mainstream social media platforms to Telegram and other seemingly anonymous channels. A similar development has happened in the UK and other countries. The NRM have for several years already spread their information through Telegram channels such as “Defend Finland” ja “Kansallisradikaalia toimintaa” (“radical nationalist activity”).

Screenshot from the Partisaani website. The NRM founded Partisaani and ceased updating their old Kansallinen vastarinta site in May 2020. The choice of the “Partisan” name is rather odd, since the term internationally is mostly associated with anti-fascist resistance groups during WWII

In May 2020, a Nazi website called Partisaani appeared. Partisaani is functioning exactly like the old NRM website even if it claims to be independent from the banned organization. However, in all aspects it still functions as a platform for the NRM with members publishing articles on the sites under their own names and reports are made from all NRM front groups including Kohti vapautta and Veren laki.

Veren laki (”the law of blood”) is one of the “new” Nazi groups and appeared in February 2020. During the court case, the NRM seem to have focused on creating groups specialized on certain activities instead of doing everything under one name. Veren laki is an anonymous group that arranges martial art trainings but has not published much about themselves apart from that. By creating specialized groups such as Suomalaisapu and Veren laki, the NRM hope to attract people with different interests to become active in the neo-Nazi environment.  

Screenshot from the Veren laki website. Apart from links to social media accounts there is no content as of now. The page is registered already in January 2018 but it became publicly active in 2020.
Screenshot from Instagram. The Veren laki group is focusing on martial art training and all photos have been anonymized by the Nazis themselves.

2020 has been a year of very little visibility for the NRM and the rest of the far-right. Some of the activists have retired, some have mobilized, and some have established new channels for their propaganda. One of the few exceptions is the ”188 kukkavirta” demonstration in Turku in August, which shrunk in comparison with earlier years and now focused solely on attracting the far-right under the slogan “White lives matter”. Pictures taken at the demonstration prove that the NRM was attending both as participants and with a press team this year as well. Shortly after, in September 2020, the Supreme Court gave their verdict and banned the NRM in Finland.

What is the future of the banned Nordic Resistance Movement in Finland? 

The NRM is now banned from operating but continue to function anonymously and under new names. The Nazi organization still advertise and document their activities through the Partisaani website and numerous Telegram channels even though they on the surface level try to obscure what it really is. This kind of secretive behavior is not completely new, since the NRM co-founded the “612” torch parades with other fascist activists but only publicly admitted to it four years later. The legal procedure has however affected how the NRM can function and forced the Nazis to turn inward and invent increasingly creative names. We can only speculate about how long the activists stand to play this cat-and-mouse game with the authorities.

NRM members in a “flash mob” demonstration with Soldiers of Odin in Tampere, October 4th, 2020. Despite the recent ban in the Supreme Court the police did not stop the propaganda event and kept watching for over an hour.
 

The Finnish media recently began published articles about how the NRM is not the only far-right organization with violent potential. The NRM is for example an active part in the Kansallismielisten liittouma coalition together with Soldiers of Odin, Finns party politicians and neo-fascist association Suomen Sisu. Via co-operation and arranging events through this coalition (like the 612 torch march and 188 demonstration), the NRM and its activists can continue to spread far-right propaganda in the streets, and a ban on the NRM will not affect the whole fascist milieu in Finland. 

It is a noteworthy development that when the NRM lost its role as a leading force in the Finnish far-right, other types of events such as white power music shows, and “intellectual” conferences became more important. Many of the discussion events and conferences are connected to Suomen Sisu and the so called “ethnonationalist” wing of the Finns party youth organizations.

What will happen to the Nazis and anti-fascism now? 

Many celebrated after the Supreme Court banned the Nordic Resistance Movement in Finland, but from a larger perspective, things are much more complicated. The NRM is officially illegal from the perspective of the authorities but continue to exist de facto, since all of the activists have not given up Nazism. On the contrary, they continue their activism in “new” groups under different names and through different channels. This result is not surprising, considering how bans have affected Nazi organizations in other countries such as the United Kingdom. The NRM take a lot of inspiration from National Action, for example.

We wrote already in 2016 that a ban would not stop Nazis from organizing, but that does not mean that legal procedures doesn´t give them concrete difficulties. During the court case their webshop and support association Pohjoinen Perinne ry was frozen, seriously damaging their economical means. The police has put a lot of resources into the investigations and actually stopped the NRM from marching in their own name on the Independence Day 2019, even if they hid among other far-right organizations. 

It is difficult to measure to what extent the court case will affect Nazi recruitment. Some people interested in Nazism might be even more intrigued since a ban gives the NRM a sense of mysticism and extremism, but probably most people won´t be interested in joining a struggling and legally prohibited group. The debate on how to keep Nazis from organizing at all needs to continue. 

During the court case it has become clear that some of the NRM members in Finland continue their activism anonymously and under other names. From an anti-fascist perspective there is no doubt that our work against the Nazis need to continue regardless of how they organize or name themselves.

Do you have information on the Nordic Resistance Movement, the ban on the organization or other information about fascist activity in Finland? Contact us at varistoimitus[at]riseup.net

The Varis Network has written extensively about the Nordic Resistance Movement and other far-right activity in Finland. Some of our articles are available in English:

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