On Wednesday over five thousand gathered in Helsinki’s Senate Square on just two days’ notice for a rally in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter mass protests in the United States. The rally, which far exceeded the mere 500 police had allowed on its permit, was so big that organizers’ sound system was overwhelmed. Nonetheless, the organic mood of the crowd was clear and all assembled were eager to show their support for the fight against racism and police brutality in the USA.
Helsinki police say they ordered the rally to disperse at 18.00 hours. Thousands of participants, however, joined a march through downtown and southern Helsinki that attempted to reach the US embassy in Eira. Unfortunately, quickly-moving police cordons and the unwillingness of organizers to use the strength of the march’s numbers to confront police meant the march circled back to its place of origin after two hours.
Participants in the rally and march were overwhelmingly young and Finland’s Somali community was well-represented. All supported solidarity with the movement in the USA. Missing, though, was a reflection on the racism of the Finnish state itself from the rally’s organizers.
A combination of economic factors and racism has meant the Somali community has suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus pandemic. Finland, as a major arms exporter, helps fuel wars and violence throughout much of the former colonial world.
And the day after the march, with the graffiti cleaned from Senate Square and the march scrubbed from media narratives, Finland celebrated its annual Armed Forces Day marking the birthday of Finnish historical strongman Marshal CGE Mannerheim. Mannerheim, as commander of the Finnish army, oversaw concentration camps that exterminated leftists in the wake of Finland’s abortive 1918 revolution and planned the ethnic cleansing of northern Russia during the Second World War, when Finland fought alongside Nazi Germany against the USSR.
As socialists, we say racism is a problem which must be fought all over the world–and racism cannot be beaten once and for all without the overthrow of the capitalist system feeding it. As one young demonstrator, Vivian, explained, “The capitalist system gave way to the racist system and in order to dismantle all these other things, we have to first dismantle this…capitalism lives to benefit the few that are on the top. I know it’s not a fight that’s going to last a day, or a week, or a march, or two, but capitalism is at the foundation of it all.”