Finland: On May Day we organised a bloc (an independently organised part of a demonstration) for the “Helsingin Työväen Vappu” May Day march. Our bloc was unaffiliated with labour unions and political parties and it was called Your Time Belongs To You – The Most Beautiful Bloc of the May Day March. Our intentions were to gather together the entire rainbow spectrum of anti-authoritarian left in the Helsinki metropolitan area in all its beauty.
Originally published by Takku.
Workers’ May Day (Työväen vappu) is an event organised by SAK, SDP, TUL, the local divisions of the Left Union and the Left Youth of Helsinki. Our bloc was organised by individuals, some of whom belong to, among others, Varisverkosto Helsinki, A-ryhmä, the Comrade Network and the Anarchist Black Cross of Helsinki. The Facebook event for the bloc was made in the name of these groups and some of these groups financed the sound systems and the rental van for our procession.
There’s of course nothing new about the extra-parliamentary left participating in the May Day march – the same goes for the lack of solidarity towards us from the rest of the left. We wouldn’t even want any support from the likes of stalinists and other authoritarians but we are surprised to find how indifferent certain party affiliated leftists, who have organised anti-fascists demonstrations with us, were as their May Day committee expelled our sound car from the procession.
When it became apparent that we wouldn’t be allowed to march with our sound car as a part of the main march we announced a separate demonstration to the police. This march would follow the same route but keep enough of a distance to the main procession to make the separation apparent. We had some lengthy discussions with the police negotiators about the legal rights to assembly, which seem to get interpreted by the leadership of the law enforcement however they happen to feel like at the moment. We were told, for example, that we would be allowed to march but we would have to do so on the sidewalk. Apparently we would be allowed to march with the sound car as long as it was kept in the street but it would have to keep up with the pace of the traffic….!
Finally, after successfully wresting our demonstration its legal right to march and as we were beginning to form a procession in the street, the police began to play the “good cop / bad cop” game in which on one side the negotiators scolded us for not driving our sound car to the front of the march and on the other side crowd management officers stood in front of the van, stopping it from moving. The same situation was repeated on Ruoholahdenkatu as we were close to the destination. Police cars drove in front of our sound car, obstructing its passage, while police negotiators yelled at us to keep marching.
We had decided that this time we would not be kept from marching as was the case in 2014 in Helsinki, and we acted decisively and collectively in keeping with this goal. After the – to say it mildly – frustrating beginning we started to march from the Hakaniemi Square, long after the march we had planned to participate in, with the song Borders by M.I.A. playing us to the streets (the march playlist can be found at the end of this report.) The procession was in good spirits, despite it all. Music was loud, and so were the shouts (e.g. “autonomy – solidarity – continued struggle – revolution”, “a – anti – anticapitalista”, “alerta – alerta – antifascista”, “May Day belongs to us – not to the SDP”, “cops – pigs – cronies of the SDP”) and we handed out leaflets to the on-lookers which contained our bloc invitation in Finnish and in English. Rainbow flags, the yellow, green and red flags of Rojava, red and black flags, as well as flags of individual groups were all flown within the procession. The banners proclaimed: All For All, Nazis to the Sea!, Working Class Knows No Borders – Against The State And Fascism, Class War NOW, Right To Live #stopdeportations, Workers Unite!, General Strike, Whoever You Vote For – You Won’t Govern Us, Rage Against Racism, 0% Bourgeois – 100% (A).
At the Pitkäsilta bridge we had 350 participants in our march. We are delighted that so many stayed in the most beautiful bloc, despite the fact that joining the “traditional May Day march” which, despite numerous attempts at negotiating, refused to let us join in with our sound car, even as its last bloc or even a few dozen metres from its tail end, and which justified this by, for example, claiming that the True Finns had attempted to join the march with their sound car and for that reason only the Left Youth would be allowed to use a sound system.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the most beautiful bloc! You made our march beautiful and diverse!
During the march we were approached by a participant to ask us to change our destination, so we turned from Mannerheimintie towards Kamppi rather than Rautatientori. This destination was intented to allow participants, if they wished, the option of joining a squat organised by a separate group from ours, but at one point we were informed that the squatters had been taken into custody before the procession had reached the location. Our procession ended in front of the entrance to the Lastenlehdonpuisto parking garage where, before ending the march, we offered the chance to join in solidarity pictures supporting the yellow vests in France and Leyla Güven, who had by May Day been on hunger strike for 170 days to end the 24 hour solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, which violates human rights agreements, and the oppression of the Kurdish people in Turkey.
We hope this march will serve as one humble push towards a more unified but also more colourful, more broadly-based but uncompromised anti-authoritarian left!
Organisers of the Most Beautiful Bloc
March playlist:M.I.A. – BordersKlikki – Valmiina joka vappuSîmar – ZapLos Fastidios – Antifa HooligansMadness – Madnessİbrahîm Feqe – Efrin Tola Salan/Lêde û LêdeBella Ciao (trad.)Chumbawamba – Enough is Enough Ydinperhe – PummillaRolando Alarcon – Si Me Quieres EscribirSeyda Perînçek – YDG-HB. Dolan – Which Side Are You OnM.I.A – Paper Planes
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