Anti-immigrant vigilante patrols cause concern in Finland
By MATTI HUUHTANEN The Associated Press
First Published Jan 22 2016 08:03AM • Last Updated Jan 22 2016 08:04 am
Helsinki • In the snowy streets of Finland's cities, black-clad vigilantes are on patrol, to the alarm of the police and many residents. They say they're there to keep Finnish people safe from what they say is a new and clear threat — the increasing numbers of asylum-seekers.
The rise of the Soldiers of Odin, which claims 500 members, has sparked both concern and ridicule in the Nordic country. Opponents dressed as clowns recently to accompany the ominous-looking men on their patrols.
But the Soldiers of Odin, who derive their name from a Norse god, insist their patrols are needed to protect the peace in the sparsely populated nation of 5.5 million, which wasn't a major destination for migrants until 32,500 people applied for asylum last year. Most came from Iraq but also from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
"It's chaotic and getting out of hand," Mika Ranta, a 29-year-old truck driver who founded the group, told The Associated Press. "We should be more careful about who we let into the country."
The Soldiers of Odin say they are unarmed, though Ranta acknowledged he carries pepper spray, which is legal in Finland. They wear black jackets bearing their logo on the back -- a mustachioed man wearing a Viking helmet and Finnish flag as a neckerchief.
Speaking by phone from the northern city of Kemi, Ranta said the posse isn't racist, but considers the newcomers a threat because "they are Muslims."
"Islam has never adapted anywhere and only brings problems with it. They don't tolerate anyone else apart from believers in Islam," Ranta said.
He said police are overworked and need help to deal with the migration situation — a claim rejected by Finland's top police official.
National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen said the tenfold increase in asylum requests in 2015 has greatly increased the workload for police officers, including the need to fingerprint applicants, keep order at reception centers and protect them from arson attacks, mostly by drunk Finnish men — not always successfully.
"But we categorically don't accept any street patrols that have been set up solely against immigrants or asylum-seekers. It's the duty of the police to keep law and order," he added.
Formed in October when the flow of migrants peaked, the Soldiers of Odin raised their profile on social media following reports that Finnish women were harassed on New Year's Eve in incidents that resembled a string of attacks in Cologne, Germany, that were blamed largely on foreigners.
Police are investigating 15 reported cases of sexual assault, including rape, attempted rape and groping in downtown Helsinki during New Year's celebrations, with many of the suspected perpetrators having foreign backgrounds, including some asylum-seekers.
So far, the Soldiers' patrols have been uneventful — they haven't had any encounters either with asylum-seekers or with the police.
But they have created debates on social media, radio and TV shows and worried officials. They have also sparked counter-movements.
Last week, a group calling itself the Sisters of Kyllikki, named after a mythological Finnish female figure, began street patrols of their own "to spread love and caring" in the southeastern town of Joensuu, where a week earlier the Soldiers of Odin held an anti-immigrant demonstration.
That group's fame has spread on Facebook, with patrols planned in at least four other towns.
A troupe of clowns calling themselves the LOLdiers of Odin, in apparent reference to the text messaging abbreviation, LOL, for "laughing out loud," has gone even further.
Dressed in crazy clothes, including Viking helmets, tin hats, and long flowing gowns, they taunted and mocked the vigilantes on one of their patrols last week in the southern city of Tampere. The clowns sang children's songs, threw cartwheels and slid down piles of snow along the black-clad men's route.
More examples of how Whites are fighting back. You see, there IS something we can do - but only if we're willing to make an effort.
The Soldiers Of Odin are doing this on their own time. I'm sure most of them have jobs and families, but they MAKE the time, and probably still have enough left to watch their soccer games.
Yesterday in the Unites States, the entire country ground to a halt so everyone could watch the Stupid Bowl. I call it that not because the game is stupid, but because people are willing to pay prices starting at $5000 for seats. I wonder how much top-of-the-line seats cost?
Anyway, when I see Europeans willing to commit so much time and effort for something they believe in, I am more than ever convinced that we are getting exactly the America we deserve.