Finland: 15 000 people demonstrate for multiculturalism
Agence France-Presse reports that approximately 15 000 people assembled yesterday in the center of the Finnish capital, Helsinki, to express their support for a multicultural society and protest against remarks made by MPs for the governing eurosceptic, populist Party of the Finns. Organizers convened the demonstration to protest remarks made by MP Olli Immonen, who called for "combating the nightmare of multiculturalism" over the weekend on Facebook.
The Party of the Finns, previous known as the "Real Finns", is a nationalist group that became the second-strongest party in the country after the April parliamentary elections and joined the coalition of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in May. The party is seated in the cabinet together with the PM's party, Finnish Center (KESK) and the pro-European conservative party National Coalition Party (KOK).
Support for the protest, which was called "We Have a Dream", was expressed by Sipilä and Finnish President Sauli Sipiläho. "I would like to point out that part of the Finnish way of life has always been making room for diversity and for manifold customs," Sipiläho said in a statement read to the protesters by organizers.
According to the President, foreign nationals have significantly enriched the cultural and economic life of Finland. Similar, if smaller, demonstrations also took place today in Tampere and other towns around Finland.
"This is not good for the reputation of the party," Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, who is the chair of the Party of the Finns, said in response to the affair, adding that Immonen's case would be discussed by the party club when Parliament reconvenes. Soini said it was a coincidence that Immonen's declaration about multiculturalism was posted online two days after the fourth anniversary of the murders of 77 people, most of them Social Democrats, in Norway by ultra-right extremist Anders Breivik.
On 22 July 2011 Breivik committed the murders in the government quarter of Oslo and on the island of Utöya. The motivation for his crime was to protest the Norwegian model of a multicultural society.
In Finland, according to official statistics, approximately 300 000 people are of "foreign origin", or roughly 5.5 % of the population. More than half of them come from other European countries, primarily Estonia and Russia.
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