Neighbors living across the water from the island of Utøya, site of the July 22 massacre in 2011, have suddenly moved the temporary memorial site honouring massacre victims that spontaneously had sprung up in their community. The move comes amidst their heated objections to plans for a permanent memorial site on the island itself.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday morning that the neighbors removed all the flowers, candles and other mementos left by mourners at the site, which has a view to the island. The neighbors cited “undignified conditions” and traffic congestion that they claim have made them “living victims” of the massacre themselves. They then took it upon themselves to move the items to a new location outside of their neighborhood at Utstranda and Utvika.
The impromptu memorial site along County Road 155 that runs through their community emerged almost immediately after the massacre by a lone gunman that left 69 persons dead, mostly young Labour Party members attending the party’s annual summer camp on the island. Mourners have lit candles and placed everything from flowers and flags to handwritten messages on a large stone at the site ever since.
Now it’s mostly all been cleared away, replaced by a sign informing passersby that “This is no longer a ‘memorial site.’ The ‘memorial site’ has been moved to the roadside reststop along the southbound lane of the E16 highway.” They also offered GPS coordinates for the new site they chose for the temporary memorial.
NRK reported that landowners and a neighborhood group, Utstranda Velforening, decided to move both the stone and all the items left on it without warning. They want to stop more people from using the site to pay their respects to the Utøya victims.
‘Patience ran out’
The group claimed in a press release that the site had created “major traffic problems” and attracted “audacious tourists, littering, and generally irritating behaviour by curiosity seekers.”
The neighbors claimed that the frequent visitors to the site had “demanded a lot of patience” from those living in the area, and their patience had now “run out after nearly three years of being living victims of terrorism.” They claimed that repeated complaints about traffic at the site to the local highway department had gone unheeded.
They thus took it into their own hands to move both the large stone and all the items currently on it to a privately owned spot adjacent to the roadside rest up on the hill behind their community. They stated that the new memorial site they created is meant to be temporary as well, until it can be replaced by a permanent memorial.
They have tried to block construction, however, of a permanent memorial on the island itself that was commissioned by the Norwegian Parliament and selected by an international jury. They aren’t satisfied with it either, and have threatened legal action to stop the project, claiming it will be an eyesore that they’ll be forced to look at every day.