Investigators say they may take action against the people involved in violence against asylum seekers and Red Cross workers in Lahti, at which one person was photographed wearing a white supremacist costume. Meanwhile emergency patrols were dispatched to the scene again on Friday night, to drive away “curious youths” in cars circling the asylum seekers’ temporary accommodation.
Police have said they are considering whether to bring further charges against protesters accused of throwing stones and shouting abuse at asylum seekers and charity workers on Thursday night.
Two members of a group of 30-40 people were issued with fines when protesters hurled rocks and fireworks at buses arriving at temporary accommodation for asylum seekers in the southern Finnish town of Lahti.
One of the crowd was photographed dressed in the robes of the US white supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan.
The incident, outside a former army barracks in the suburb of Hennala, drew widespread condemnation, with the government issuing a statement decrying the protests as “racist”. “Violence and threatening behaviour is always indefensible,» the statement said.
Police were present at the demonstration, and were praised on Friday by the private secretary for the Interior Ministry Päivi Nerg. Two men received fines at the scene – one for dangerous use of fireworks, and another, who was in possession of a spray can, for breach of the peace.
But on Saturday, after images of the incident spread worldwide, Detective Inspector Martti Hirvonen from Häme Police said his force are deciding whether further charges could be brought against those involved, either for causing danger – known as “imperilment” – or for public incitement to an offence.
Another possible charge could be ethnic agitation, which carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.
The protestor dressed in the distinctive white hood and robes of the Ku Klux Klan could also face action for wearing a mask in public, which is illegal in Finland.
Police say they have gathered large amounts of photos and footage of the incident. One thing investigators will be seeking to establish is whether people were invited to join the gathering.
Following the clash police said that stones thrown by the group did not hit any Red Cross workers or asylum seekers. However on Saturday they said they are now looking into claims which have arisen on social media that people were hit.
Police described Friday night outside the accommodation as largely peaceful, although said that a number of emergency calls were made from inside the centre regarding cars which were circling outside. Patrols were dispatched to drive the cars away, with officers saying the drivers were “curious youths”.