Norway’s 17th of May celebrations on Friday ended with rowdy parties, drunkenness and even vandalism to the statue of national war hero Gunnar Sønsteby. Its sculptor Per Ung was furious, calling the vandals “idiots and vermin,” while Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang said they were just stupid.
“It’s always sad when someone, probably drunk, makes a fool of themselves,” Stang told website osloby.no. “I can’t get too angry about it, this is just stupid, and we will get the statue repaired.”
The statue of resistance fighter Sønsteby, who died last year at the age of 94, stands at Solli Plass in Oslo, which was the scene of a huge outdoor party organized by a local bar and nightclub Friday afternoon and evening. The plaza had been mostly cleaned up by Saturday morning, but the statue of Sønsteby and his legendary bicycle was missing its front wheel.
The vandalism was reported to police later in the day, with police operations leader Steinar Husvik calling it “tragic that anyone would do this against a national hero.”
Ung, who had sculpted the bronze statue that King Harald V unveiled in 2007, was extremely upset by the vandalism and shocking disregard it showed to Sønsteby’s memory. Whoever broke off the wheel of Sønsteby’s bicycle, which he often used as a decoy as well as a means of escape when eluding Nazis after his famous sabotage actions during the German occupation of Norway, are “idiots, thick in their heads,” Ung claimed. “I can’t understand why they couldn’t let the statue stand in peace.”
The scene around the statue was far from peaceful Friday afternoon, when the 17th of May party was in full swing. Music blasted, men stood on tables and revelers literally screamed from the Solli plaza, which had been fenced in for the occasion. Police in dress uniforms patrolled the area as did security guards hired to maintain crowd control.
Police sent out a report on Twitter on Saturday night that the wheel had been recovered. VG Nett followed up, reporting that an employee of the nightclub had found the wheel hanging around the head of the statue and “taken care of it.” Police retrieved the wheel and intended to deliver it to Ung, who could decide how the statue could be repaired. There was no immediate word as to whether the party organizers would be held responsible for the damage or the cost of repairs.
Tragic outcome to another party
Meanwhile, many city streets not least around Solli Plass and lower Frognerveien, were covered with litter, empty bottles and food remains Saturday morning after a long night of loud partying. Unusually warm temperatures prompted many revelers to head outdoors, or on to apartment balconies and terraces, which led to tragedy in Oslo’s Majorstuen district.
Oslo police reported Saturday that a 20-year-old man from Sweden fell to his death from a roof terrace at an apartment on Neuberggata. He and around 20 others had been guests at a party in the apartment, and many saw him fall around 20 meters down to the asphalt below. They were receiving crisis help at a local hospital after he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police and ambulance crews responded to other falls from balconies where 17th of May parties were also being held. One man fell from a fourth-floor balcony downtown and survived, but was critically injured. A 51-year-old man also fell off a second-floor balcony in the Tøyen distrct and was rushed to Ullevål University Hospital.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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