Pepper Spray Attack on Gay Rights Event
The second annual Gay Pride March in Oulu – North Pride – was overshadowed by one if its organisers being attacked with pepper spray. 65DN spoke to him.
The North Pride march itself went ahead peacefully on Saturday afternoon with security stepped up. Despite rainy weather, around 600 people marched through the city centre in support of the event. At many points, the march looked like a river of umbrellas. Marchers carried banners and placards with such slogans as ‘Difference is a Gift,’ ‘Liminka’s Art Homosexuals’ and ‘Bi.’
It was part of a three day North Pride festival, from Friday to Sunday, which included music and various seminars.
But on the Thursday before the festivities started, Dan Koivulaakso, of the Left Alliance, was attacked with the spray during a public meeting about homosexual asylum seekers attended by about 40 people.
Koivulaakso told 65DN that he was waiting for the meeting start when, ‘I noticed one guy looking very nervous. He had his hand deep in his pocket and was squeezing something. He went into the corridor.’
Koivulaakso, who is a trade unionist, had ‘a weird feeling about’ about the man, whom he describes as being ‘under 25.’ He followed him into the corridor, where he found him with ‘some other guys.’ Later, he checked them again and the young men, now alone, sprayed him in the face close-up and ran away.
He recalled ‘a burning feeling on my skin’ and was taken to hospital.
Police claim that they know who the perpetrator, who fled the scene immediately, is. Cllr Hanna Sarkkinen, a Left Alliance representative on Oulu City Council, told 65DN that the incident should be investigated see if it was orchestrated by a particular group. She argued that ‘this is not the first time that gay rights events have been attacked in Finland’ and she speculated that an Oulu-based Neo-Nazi group may have been behind the incident. She declined to name the group which she suspected was responsible.
Koivulaakso told 65DN that he has been threatened on a particular Nazi website, which he declined to name because there is an ongoing police investigation. But he strongly suspects that these people – who also attacked a Kokoomus candidate during last year’s election – are responsible. He feels he was targeted because he has been strongly critical National Socialist groups in Finland.