Are there neo-Nazis in Finland
"Herring" in Finland swarm out
Helsinki. There could hardly have been a more suitable time to take to the streets against the poisoned political climate in Finland: on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, neo-Nazis distributed anti-Semitic flyers and burned an Israeli flag in Tampere, central Finland; In Turku, red bags of paint were thrown at one of the country's two synagogues at night. Although the "Silakkaliike" (herrings) had already formed around Christmas last year, their first large public demonstration now took place in the shadow of these events.
The movement mobilized over 1000 people in the Finnish capital Helsinki last Saturday. Equipped with cardboard herrings and umbrellas, the first "herring swarm" formed between the Finnish parliament and the new Oodi library. "If the weather hadn't been so terrible, we would have surely got twice as many people together," speculates the movement's spokeswoman, Katriina Valli.
Based on the Italian "sardine" movement, the "Heringen" in northern Europe are an explicitly non-partisan, peaceful citizens' movement that is clearly anti-fascist. Almost 30,000 people are part of the public Facebook group "Heringe", and there are meetings in libraries in several cities. Hate speech on the Internet, source criticism or fact checks are discussed or lectured in workshops. Although the next public actions are planned for the end of March, Valli sees the strength of the "herrings" in the many local groups. Many participants in the first demonstration came from other parts of Finland.
The culture of political debate in Finland has become increasingly polarized since the center-left government started working in June 2019: the right-wing "True Finns" have been leading the polls for months. The debate about the possible return of around 40 Finnish wives and children of IS fighters who are staying in the Kurdish refugee camp Al-Hol had led to massive racist attacks. Valli emphasizes, however, that the herring movement is not explicitly directed against a single party, but against racism and hate speech, wherever they can be found. "We also had occasional contact with True Finns who belong to the rather old, conservative wing - these people see themselves in harmony with our values - they too could therefore take part in our actions," Valli told "nd".
The "Sardines" in Italy demonstrated against Matteo Salvini and the Lega Nord from November 2019 to the end of January, the "Herring" in Finland want to avoid a clear, party-political position. Nevertheless, the "True Finns" feel addressed, both their chairman, Jussi Halla-Aho, and the MEP Laura Huhtasaari attacked the movement publicly. On Saturday, the "herrings" were faced with a few dozen right-wing radical "Soldiers of Odin" grilling fish and shouting that "herrings should be in the oven".
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