Norwegians living near the island of Utøya where 69 people were shot to death by a lone gunman five years ago have gone ahead with plans to try to block construction of a memorial in their neighbourhood. They want to get on with their lives, and claim the memorial will remind them of the tragedy every single day.
The state has been responsible for meeting survivors’ demands for memorials, one near Utøya and one to be built in downtown Oslo, where the gunman also set off a bomb that killed eight people. After a lengthy process involving public hearings, government officials decided to build the Utøya memorial on the mainland at Sørbråten, in the midst of a residential neighbourhood whose residents also lived through the tragedy of July 22, 2011.
“I just can’t believe that the the government wants to cause us so much pain,” Maria Holtane-Berge, who has been among those leading the neighbours’ protests, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) last spring. That’s when government officials, caught in the middle between trying to satisfy survivors’ and neighbours’ demands, made the difficult decision to build the Utøya memorial at Sørbråten in Hole municipality.
The lawsuit was filed in the local court by 22 plaintiffs. “We want to stress that we are not against a memorial being built in Hole,” the group stated in a press release, “but we think it’s gruesome that the state wants to place this right in the local neighbourhood that actively saved many youth on July 22. Many are already plagued by the memories from that day and don’t need further reminders of the brutality we witnessed.”
“We want the state to show some compassion and gratitude for what our neighbourhood contributed, and accept that we must get a different location for the national memorial after July 22, 2011.”
The neighbours’ attorney, Harald Stabell, said he will prosecute the case on the basis of a law that protects neighbourhoods from undue trauma, and argue that the memorial will inflict psychological damage on local residents.
State officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.