A brief report from the December 6th riot of Helsinki

The banner on the left reads “let’s stop the cuts, collectivize everything” and on the right “class war now”

On the Finnish independence day 6th of December there was a big riot (on local scale) in the capital Helsinki and the police estimates that a 100 000 euros worth on property was destroyed.

December 6th is the national independence day of Finland. It is a day when the nationalists and the elite celebrate “an united Finnish nation” and lost wars in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on taxpayers money, while the elite and politicians have driven harsh austerity measures for everybody (except for themselves, obviously).

In the past years anarchists and autonomous leftists have organized pretty peaceful demonstrations against these rich people’s bacchanals in front of the Palace. This custom had been going on for over 10 years until the 6th of December last year when the Presidential Palace was under renovation and the rich celebrated in the old working class city of Tampere instead. Local anarchists organized a demonstration against nationalism, which turned out to be the biggest riot of Finland in decades. Though this was hardly a riot on international scale, it gave a huge boost to the anarchist movement and it was the headline of every paper for a week or so. The police was completely unprepared, and the 500 demonstrators fought with them successfully and then went on to the city center smashing windows of malls and banks and other symbols of power and capital.

After the humiliating failure by cops, the parliament issued more money for crowd control gear and the police had trained strategies for riot situations. They have also practised dominating tactics in the demonstrations earlier this year. For example they confiscated anarchists’ and the Left-Youths flags in the May Day demonstrations in Tampere and Helsinki as they were considered as “weapons”. Due to the police actions, nobody expected this year’s demonstration to be anywhere near as successful as last year.

This year’s demonstration was again organized by anarchists and the theme was “from the suburbs to the Palace” and the place of assembly was in Itäkeskus, a suburb in east-Helsinki, which population mainly consists of immigrants and poor people. The start of the demo was very calm, with some 300 people enjoying subversive rap artists and vegan food. The place was well chosen as it managed to attract local hood kids and immigrants and other people who rarely attend to demonstrations.

After the gigs had ended the demonstration started to march towards the local metro station. A lot of people did not expect that cops would let the crowd into the metro, as the station was surrounded with dozens of riot police. To my and others’ amazement they did let us through and the demonstrators packed into the train. The cops were expecting for the demo to get off in the Central Railway Station where they had centered most of the crowd control units. The demo however departed at different station which totally confused the cops. When the demo hit the streets, people started smashing the windows of pretty well chosen businesses, for example the air ventilation of Subway and McDonald’s restaurants was improved. People threw fire crackers and burned flares and were shouting chants like “class war”and “what do the people want? ANARCHY!”. After a while the cops managed to regroup and reached the demo to escort it to a location of their choise. They tried to move the demo to the designated area well away from the Presidential Palace and there were minor confrontations between the demonstrators and the police. The demo managed however to break out from the police escort and it took a good long time for the police to outnumber the demonstrators again.

The demo headed for the upper class parts of the city smashing windows and damaging expensive cars and spray painting slogans. People also tore down Finnish flags and burned a couple of them. After a long while the police managed to surround the demo, but after one unsuccessful attempt of breaking through which led to some arrests, the demonstration managed to escape the siege and went on to one of the richest areas of the city. A lot of property was damaged ranging from traffic signs to jewelry stores.

Finally the police managed to surround the demonstration again. This didn’t calm the rioting though and a lot of people and most of the rioters managed escape for the last time before dispersing through one buildings inner courtyard. Some 100 people couldn’t get away however and they had to stay put for three hours. Finally the police let some of the people go and arrested the rest after filming everybody stating their name and social security and so on.

At the end of the night some 30 people were arrested including reporters and hang-arounds, most of which hadn’t participated in the destruction of property. All the same they were charged with rioting, assaulting and not complying with police’s orders. The police estimated that over 100 000 euros worth of property were damaged or destroyed.

In conclusion the night was a great success on the anarchists’ part and the demo managed attract people who hadn’t been in any kind of demonstrations before. Of course this kind of demonstrations are just a small part of the everyday class struggle, but it gave the participants a great experience and hopefully this tradition continues next year.

More photos from the demonstration here.