The Helsinki Police Department has been indicted of breaching human rights after footage was shared widely online showing police officers pepper-spraying seated Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters.
A sit-in protest was organised by Elokapina (Extinction Rebellion Finland) on the busy Kaisaniemenkatu road in Helsinki, where numerous road traffic and tram line routes converge, on Saturday.
The climate protesters were ordered to disperse, having blocked the busy road with their sit-down demonstration all afternoon before police finally, and seemingly without provocation, unloaded with pepper spray canisters, spraying at close quarters the seated protesters directly in the face as photos and videos from the scene show.
Within 10 minutes of the protest spreading out, police resorted to pepper spray and sprayed protesters several times, causing severe reactions in roughly a dozen people. Police also prevented some of the sprayed people from rinsing their face with water,’ reads a press release from Elokapina.
Activists took to twitter to share what they experienced at the hands of the police and to express their outrage at what unfolded. Many blasted the actions of the officers and called for them to face disciplinary action. ‘Shame on you Finland! How dare you!’ one irate commenter wrote.
At least 51 protesters, some of whom had locked themselves to a boat were detained by police according to an Extinction Rebellion press release. In a statement, the Helsinki police department argued that given the extent of the traffic disruption and length for which the protest had been allowed to continue, officers used the ’most lenient forcible measure at [their disposal].’
‘I’m frankly annoyed that things didn’t go well in this particular case,’ Sanna Heikinheimo, a deputy national police commissioner at the National Police Board said. A report has already been submitted to the Ministry of the Interior and an investigation into the police use of force is underway.
Legal experts across Finland have expressed their concern at the use of perceived excessive force in the incident. Miikka Vuorela, a doctoral student of criminology at the University of Helsinki, claimed the officers’ actions ’constituted a human rights violation.’
Kimmo Nuotio, a professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki said the situation ’doesn’t look good,’ from a legal perspective, adding that use of force must be based on careful discretion and situational consideration. Similar civil disobedience will be seen in at least 15 different countries throughout Autumn,’ the group wrote on its website. Source
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