Precisely 3,435 people signed the ’Joensuu vapaaksi pelosta’ (Free Joensuu from fear) petition, demanding zero tolerance for racism in Joensuu. There is a growing concern that Soldiers of Odin will take Joensuu back to the 1990’s, when groups with clearly racist agendas targeted certain groups of people restricting their movement around the city and, eventually, tarnished the reputation of the city itself. The petition was submitted to the city of Joensuu on January 25.
‘When people started hearing about the street patrols, the thought of not again crossed the minds of many’ said Tiina Sotkasiira, researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, and added:
‘There exists a story about a racist Joensuu. It is our mission to rewrite that story.’
Chairperson of the City Council Merja Mäkisalo-Ropponen (SDP), who received the petition, recalls how people remained silent for too long in the 90’s.
‘It’s essential that we do not repeat that mistake, and that the zero tolerance is enforced’, she remarked.
Many international actors, including the University of Eastern Finland and the Student Union (ISYY), have taken a stand against Joensuu’s Soldiers of Odin. Many believe that the city has no need for such activity; in fact, the group is seen as being detrimental to the safety of the city.