Extinction Rebellion Finland (Elokapina) demands the Finnish government to declare a climate emergency and to start following the Paris Agreement. Because of this, a group of protesters stopped the traffic on Unioninkatu in Helsinki for five hours. Despite the street blockade being peaceful, the police repeatedly used pepper spray against the sitting protesters.
Today at 13:00 a group of Extinction Rebellion Finland’s protesters stopped the traffic at Unioninkatu, next to Varsapuistikko park, by sitting down on the roadway. They also brought along a boat, to which some protesters locked themselves. The Emergency Brake (Hätäjarrutus) demonstration was taking place at the same time. The demonstration started from the Central Railway Station and was headed towards Hakaniemi, but then stopped and joined the street blockade at Unioninkatu. Estimated 200 people were present.
The police gave an order to move away at 14:25, but around half of the protesters peacefully refused to do so. The police started dismantling the blockade by carrying protesters to the sidewalk and detaining them. In the middle of this process some of the protesters moved to block the intersection of Unioninkatu and Kaisaniemenkatu, stopping traffic on Kaisaniemenkatu. The blockade stayed non-violent all the way through and the traffic was not jammed. Within 10 minutes of this move the police started spraying pepper spray at the sitting demonstrators at close distance. Around 10 people got bad symptoms from the spray and even more were affected. The police also stopped some protesters from washing their eyes with water.
The roadblock was first dismantled from Kaisaniemenkatu, but Unioninkatu stayed closed almost until 18:00. The demonstration ended when the last people sitting on the street were detained, and therefore lasted around five hours. According to the latest information, the number of detained demonstrators is 51. Extinction Rebellion Finland finds the forceful actions taken by the police excessive and inappropriate. The use of spray has already been judged upon on social media. Several underaged people were among the sprayed and the detained.
Extinction Rebellion Finland deems that in the state budget workshop in September, the Finnish government has failed to take sufficient climate action. There was no systemic change towards sustainable development, and burning peat is going to be only cut in half by the year 2030. In reality, Finland should almost triple the pace of lowering emissions and simultaneously grow our carbon sinks. By doing that, Finland would stay within its share of the global emissions quota agreed on the Paris agreement and keep to the objective of 1,5 degree warming. Because of this, Extinction Rebellion Finland strives to make climate emergency visible on the streets through the roadblock and demands the Finnish government to act faster.
The movement demands 1) the Finnish government to declare a climate emergency and start providing regular state information about the progress of the climate crisis and the severity of the situation. 2) Finland must act in a way required by the crisis and reduce net carbon emissions 20% from the current level every year so that Finland is carbon neutral in 2025. 3) If party politics cannot make the crucial systemic changes, a Citizen’s Assembly made up of randomly selected ordinary citizens and utilizing the best scientific knowledge has to be established to decide on socially just climate action.
The demonstration and the street blockade are part of the Autumn Rebellion (Syyskapina), which will continue until Wednesday 7th of October. The Autumn Rebellion belongs to Extinction Rebellion’s international wave of rebellion, and similar civil disobedience will be seen in at least 15 different countries throughout Autumn.