Wednesday 23 January 2019

Protesters in Helsinki for US and Russian leaders’ crunch meeting

Activists have raised a number of issues while Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin hold talks in the Finnish capital.

Demonstrators hold a sign ‘Stop Putin, Liberate Ukraine – Save Europe’ in Helsinki (AP)
Demonstrators hold a sign ‘Stop Putin, Liberate Ukraine – Save Europe’ in Helsinki (AP)

By Jamey Keaten

Activists have used a summit between US president Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to hold two days of high-profile protests in the Finnish capital over a variety of grievances.

One sign in Helsinki read: “Build saunas not war!”

Abortion-rights activists dressed up in bulging bellies and Trump masks, while anti-fascist protesters carried signs with expletive-laden insults.

Free traders, anti-war Ukrainians, environmentalists and rainbow flag-waving gay rights supporters all vied for attention from the world’s media.

Environmental group Greenpeace demonstrates with a poster hanging from the tower of the Kallio Church (AP)

In a city proud to defend the right to protest, demonstrators were scattered about. Some stayed at barriers erected by police to try to register their complaints as the world leaders sped by in armor-plated vehicles for their summit at Finland’s presidential palace.

Others marched by Helsinki landmarks, far away from the leaders’ gathering but in clear view of curious residents and tourists.

At the city’s Senate Square, about 20 male “pregnant Trumps” and 20 women wearing pink gags railed against a Trump order reinstating what critics call a “global gag rule” that bans providing federal money to international family-planning groups that perform abortions or provide information about them.

Screen projected signs seen next to the president’s castle in Helsinki (AP)

Another march that drew hundreds of people displayed a mishmash of messages — some supporting German chancellor Angela Merkel and some shouting “Fascists go home!”

Some marchers questioned the legitimacy of Mr Trump’s election victory since he lost the popular vote. Another sign read: “A woman’s place is in the Resistance.”

Helsinki protesters Tina Aspiala said: “I don’t think the two people meeting today are going to care whether we are here or not, frankly.

“It’s more of a global solidarity against a lot of things that are messed up, and I think that that’s why it’s worth coming out.”

Some pro-US and Russian demonstrators (AP)

Some marchers had professionally designed banners while others scrawled slogans like “Not Welcome” onto homemade posters or warned of a looming apocalypse.

On Sunday, 1,500 people marched through the city to promote human and sexual rights, democracy and environmental issues. Organisers for “Helsinki Calling” said the protest was not aimed directly against the US or Russian presidents but was designed to focus on key global issues.

“We celebrate the Helsinki spirit here,” said Timo Heikkinen, a 50-year-old from Helsinki.

“And we welcome everybody who respects human rights and democracy and doesn’t share fake news.”


Press Association

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