Saturday, September 24
Senate Square, 15:30
We got up and had a leisurely breakfast and then set off for the city centre.
Last week a 28 year old man died after being pushed onto the ground by a member of a neo-nazi group at a demonstration. His head hit the ground, he went to hospital with concussion, he went home and a couple of days later had a stroke and died. Today a number of people, including Liisa, have organised a demonstration to commemorate him and also to call for the government to use the existing legislation to do something about the rise in racist attacks and the increasing public appearance of small but violent neo-nazi groups.
We met Jyrki, Päivi, Mikko the librarian, and someone else whose name I didn’t catch, outside Kiasma. Jake and Monika turned up and went off to the festival. Liisa passed by and gave me a whistle. We looked at the huge crowds stretching all round Kiasma and the open space behind it, and then we set off marching.
We have arrived at Senate Square. Along the way we picked up Sagal, a young Samalian woman who has worked on a project with Irma. People pack the steps up to the Senate House, sitting, waving flags and signs, and chatting. A lot of people have brought Finnish flags to reclaim finnishness from the right wing. Irma stands waving Jyrki’s until her arms get tired and Sagal takes over. I have walked up to the top of the steps to look at the people still arriving in the square. They will continue to arrive for another thirty minutes. The police will estimate a crowd of at least 10,000, and I will guess the size of the crowd as several thousand higher than that.
We will stay through the speeches and the performances that finish with the Tapiola Symphony Orchestra playing Finlandia. By this time Jyrki’s son Aron will have joined us, along with Naa and Jamalla and two other Somalian women. Aron will lead us all to a bar in Käisäniemi and after that we will go to Kuulosaari to eat. Most of us will eagerly eye the new Chinese restaurant, rumoured to serve the best Chinese food in Helsinki, but Jyrki will insist on going next door but one to the traditional something-or-other restaurant.
I will have the worst Indian meal I have ever tasted anywhere in the world. The “naan bread” will deserve special mention for its uncanny resemblance to a pizza without topping.