December 6, 2017 / 7:09 PM / a month ago

Thousands march in Helsinki in far-right, anti-fascist demonstrations

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Supporters of the far right in Finland and anti-fascists staged rival marches in the capital on Wednesday as the country celebrated 100 years of independence.

Police in riot gear reinforced by security personnel from around the country made 10 arrests due to scattered fights and misbehaviour. Around 2,000 people joined the anti-fascist march while demonstrations by two far right groups also gathered up to 2,000 people, the police said.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise in the Nordic EU member country of 5.5 million. About 32,500 migrants and refugees arrived during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015. The number came down to 5,600 last year.

The Belem Tower is lit up in Finland's blue and white colours to celebrate Finland's 100 years of independence anniversary, in Lisbon, Portugal December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

“No nazis in Helsinki!” shouted anti-fascist demonstrators. Far-right marchers held a slogan saying “Towards freedom” and many carried torches. Last week, a court banned a neo-Nazi group called Nordic Resistance Movement but it took part in a march as the decision is yet to be implemented.

Finland was part of the Russian Empire and won independence during the 1917 Russian revolution, then nearly lost it fighting the Soviet Union in World War Two.

(This story has been refiled to fix date.)

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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