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Sat, 26 Apr, 2014 12:04:50 AM
Police use pepper spray to quell demonstration in Helsinki
FTimes-STT-Xinhua Report, April 26
Police used tear gas on demonstrators in front of parliament on Friday. Photo – Lehtikuva.
About one thousand people staged a demonstration in Helsinki on Friday evening protesting against the activities of the five-party alliance government, particularly the fiscal adjustment decision of cutting expenditures.
 
Police used pepper spray to disperse the agitators as they tried to break through a police barrier and approach the parliament building.
 
The police said the demonstrators brought out a procession from the House of Estates and headed towards Aleksanterinkatu through Mannerheimintie and finally reached the Parliament House.
 
Police and protesters clashed during the demonstration on Friday. Photo – Lehtikuva.
According to Lieutenant Jere Roimu of the Helsinki police, some of the demonstrators tried to reach the doors of the Parliament House but were prevented at the steps of the building.
 
The agitation was initiated on social media under the slogan “That’s Enough Now!” to oppose the “endless” budget slashes that are “undermining the welfare state,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting the Finnish national broadcaster YLE.
 
The protest was launched by several non-governmental groups, said the Finnish media.
 
People agitated in front of parliament protesting government policies on various issues including cutting expenditure. Photo – Lehtikuva.
An invitation on Facebook said the protest was a neutral expression of people’s dissatisfaction with the government’s financial policy, arguing that it was “undermining the welfare state”.
 
The demonstration started at 17:00 pm and was held peacefully until some protestors tried to enter the restricted area and stepped up the stairs in front of the parliament building.
 
The police began to use tear gas to bring the situation under control and the march ended around 20:00 local time (1700 GMT). The demonstration appeared to be one of the fiercest in recent Finnish history.
 
The Finnish government reached a structural reform scheme in August last year, aiming to tackle the “sustainability gap” in the state budget. The reform included cutting government spending, reducing family benefits, raising the effective retirement age and others.
 
Last month, the government decided to launch a further cost-saving package to cut a total of 2.3 billion euros (about 3.17 billion US dollars) by 2018, including slashes of child benefit and earnings-related unemployment security payments. 
 
Lieutenant Jere Roimu told the Finnish language newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that police were compelled to use pepper spray in an attempt to prevent a few tens of people who were pushing to break the police barrier at the steps of the building.
 
The police official said the protesters had flags and sticks and hoped to make it to the door of the Parliament House where normally protesters are not allowed, the Helsingin Sanomat report said, adding that no one was injured and no arrest was made.
 
The police said the procession went very peacefully and according to the manner as informed by the organisers.
 
 
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