So many people turned out for a “rose parade” in Oslo to honour victims of Friday’s deadly attacks in Norway that organizers confined the huge crowd to the sprawling plaza outside City Hall, and cancelled the parade itself. Tens of thousands also turned out for similar memorials from Finnmark in the north to Fredrikstad in the south.
“Tonight the streets are full of love,” declared Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon several times during his appeal to the masses before him. An estimated 150,000 were assembled in the plaza (Rådhusplassen), all of them carrying a single rose.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that around 45,000 gathered in Hedmark and Oppland, and 15,000 in the southern city of Kristiansand. Roughly 100,000 took to the streets in Stavanger, 20,000 in Trondheim despite pouring rain and 15,000 in Kristiansand. Flower memorials were held all over the country Tuesday evening.
The grassroots idea for the memorials had been to gather on the plaza, carry a rose and march through the city that was under siege just three days ago to the Oslo Cathedral, where a huge mound of flowers already started forming on Saturday. Marchers would add to the mound by placing their roses on it as well, and thereby symbolize their disgust with the actions of a lone bomber and gunman on Friday and their support for the victims, their families and the open society of Norway.
The crowd was so huge, however, that police determined it was unsafe to send so many into the streets of Oslo at once. So they stayed put on Rådhusplassen, listening to various appeals and musical interludes, waving their roses and generally finding solace in one of the often-praised attributes of Norwegian society, “fellesskap” (fellowhip).
The crown prince,, who already has appeared at several other memorials during the past traumatic weekend, noted that “Norway is a country in mourning” and that the brutal bombing and shootings carried out by a lone perpetrator had “hit us all.” While the huge but subdued crowd listened, Norway’s heir to the throne added that Norwegians had now seen how great the consequences can be of a single person’s actions.
“We want to have a Norway where we live together in fellowship, where freedom is stronger than fear,” he said, to enthusiastic applause.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who has worked tirelessly to deal with the tragedy, received a hero’s welcome when he stepped on to the stage after another difficult day. Stoltenberg has won wide respect for how he has tackled what many call a catastrophe, even though it was his own Labour Party that was the bomber-gunman’s target, and Stoltenberg suffered the loss of many colleagues as the death toll settled at 68 persons.
“We won’t let fear break us down,” Stoltenberg declared. He said he felt Norway “had passed the test” in its first major brush with what prosecutors call terrorist acts. And he said he and all those assembled on Rådhusplassen in Oslo had a message to the victims and their families: “We are here tonight for you.”
Stoltenberg further urged young people that they “can still make a difference” by getting involved in their communities, using their right to vote and “participating in our democracy.” He hoped they would not be deterred by the massacre that was an “attack on young dreams for a better world.”
Eskil Pedersen, the head of the Labour Party’s youth group AUF who survived the massacre, was clearly overwhelmed by the huge crowd and said that “together our sorrow can be easier to bear. Never have we stood so united.” And neither Stoltenberg nor Crown Prince Haakon nor subsequent speakers like Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang or Pedersen, seek revenge for the acts of the man now under arrest and in custody.
“We shall punish the murderer,” said Stang, adding that the tragedy actually seemed to have nurtured the “warm, generous society we all dream about.” The defendant’s punishment, Stang said, would be that Norway becomes “even warmer, more generous and more democratic.”
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