Demonstrations in Finland? Sounds untypical for Finnish people right? That’s why we decided to find out just how Finnish people demonstrate. On the 12th of March we took part in our first Finnish demonstration in Helsinki. On that sunny Saturday around 8.000 Finns from all sides of the political landscape were on the streets to fight together against the “dark government cloud” and government’s austerity plans.
But aren’t Finnish people known for not being very talkative and shy towards strangers? Well…we decided to ignore that stereotype and confronted them directly. With the microphone on and a couple of questions in our pockets we tried to get an authentic picture of the demonstration while interviewing Finnish people, both demonstrators as well as rubberneckers who just watched the event. We asked about why they are going on the streets, how they feel and what they think – what their voices in the streets mean to the Finnish society.
And what a surprise! Finnish people do talk to strangers and they can be talkative! We had a couple of very interesting answers and we met a lot of very nice people!
The reactions of the interviewees in the streets of Helsinki differ, but are mostly positive. The demonstrators were workers, students, parents, kids, elderly people and many more, demonstrating against austerity measures and funding cuts, for ecological reasons, like saving and protecting the planet and especially the Finnish nature, lakes and water as well as financial reasons like capitalism, student money and education.
The demonstration started at around 14:00 on the Senaatintori (Senate Square) with a speaker and music, people were sitting on the staircase of the Helsingin tuomiokirkko – the Helsinki Cathedral, warming up their voices to get ready for the march in streets, signs in their hands with statements to show what they are demonstration for.
A lot of people also just watched the demonstration and weren’t quite sure what the voices of the streets are demonstrating for but seemed interested and wanted to know more about the demonstration. Compared to our countries, Germany and France, we noticed on arrival that the demonstration was much quieter. So why? Don’t they want to change something?
After approximately an hour the demonstration continued as a parade marched towards the Hakaniemi Market Square. Suddenly there was more movement, more noise, more people and we felt the voices of the streets, their concerns and fears. Still peaceful and calm but with more ambition.
But what were our fellow exchange students saying about the demonstrations? We received the following answers from Alex and Aline, both from France (of course):
Alex: “It’s a sunny day with positive atmosphere and a lot of people from all origins, every age, it’s a very, very nice. We can also find dogs in demonstration, but dogs don’t speak very much, because they don’t speak Finnish or English very well. But I’m also a bit disappointed with the demonstration, because there is no violence, it’s too calm and with music.”
Aline: “For the beginning it’s a calm demonstration, but hopefully it will become more violent at the end because I saw people with alcohol and they might become violent because they are maybe disappointed.”
Interviewer: “And will you get violent?” Both: “No never.” Others: “Of course, for sure – French people!” 😉 Luckily we managed to keep the three French away from any violent acts, which was not easy! 😉
All in all we can say that it was an interesting experience to join a demonstration in another country than our own, we had lots of fun while interviewing the Finns and also marched with them for a couple of hundred meters during the demonstration.