Environmental activists charged and convicted for insubordination

Environmental activists charged and convicted for insubordination
Hundreds arrested at the Autumn 2021 charge with insubordination (Photo Credit @elokapina via Twitter).

Peaceful Assembly

Charges against environmental protesters referred to the prosecutor

On 17th February 2022, Helsinki police referred cases against 56 Extinction Rebellion protesters - who are facing charges of insubordination - to the prosecutor for consideration. The cases refer to the events of October 2021 when demonstrators from the Finnish branch of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion, Elokapina, staged a 10-day Syyskapina ('Autumn Rebellion') where they blocked the access to the Government Palace by chaining and glueing themselves to the entrance. Overall, 56 protesters have been charged with insubordination. Another 46 are suspected of non-aggravated (initially aggravated, eventually downgraded) invasion of public premises and obstruction. In addition, a few protesters are also suspected of causing damage to property and two others will face charges related to drug use. As a consequence of the protest of October 2021 and the manner in which police responded, an internal investigation was launched by the National Police Board.

Climate protesters convicted of police insubordination

On 4th March 2022, 12 activists of the environmental group Elokapina were convicted of insubordination by the Pirkanmaa District Court. This decision refers to the protests that took place in Tampere in August 2021, when demonstrators sat down on two main streets in Tampere, blocking access to vehicles. The 12 defendants were accused of insubordination after they were asked by the police to clear the road but reportedly refused to do so and were subsequently detained. The prosecutor had requested that a fine be added to the conviction, but the Court established that this would have been inappropriate as the protesters had already been detained for a prolonged period of time.

Elokapina declared that they intend to continue their civil disobedience acts, without being intimidated by the criminal sanctions. The decision of the Court may be modified on appeal.

Expression

Attacks towards journalists during convoy protests

On the 4th and 5th February 2022, protesters gathered in the centre of Helsinki and blocked the streets with cars and vans during the so-called “Convoy protest”, inspired by a similar movement that initially took place in Canada. The objective of the action was to call for an end to COVID-19 mandates, cheaper petrol and diesel prices and the resignation of the government. Hundreds of demonstrators, who named themselves “Convoy Finland 2022”, participated in the protest, where around 70 participants were arrested and several vehicles blocking the road were towed away.

On that occasion, at least five journalists and media workers from Yle, Iltalehti and MTV3 were attacked by some Convoy protesters. The media staff were repeatedly harassed and verbally and physically threatened. Moreover, a microphone was stolen, and media workers and journalists were prevented from moving freely at the place of the protest and accused of “lying for the last two years”. According to the Finnish Union of Journalists (UFJ) the attack was a coordinated action against the press, MPs and the government. The president of UFJ, Hanne Aho, underlined that these types of incidents are rare in Finland, where journalists are more usually subject to online harassment. In her view, online violence has turned physical in this case. The European Federation of Journalists joined UFJ in condemning the events.