Amidst comments that there would be no winners and only more pain and grief, state attorneys have decided to defend in court the state’s decision to build a memorial to victims of the July 22, 2011 massacre on the island of Utøya. Neighbours living nearby have strongly objected to the memorial, claiming it will remind them of the massacre every single day.
The dispute has been brewing since 2014, when state officials chose the design Memory Wound by Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg. It involves literally cutting off part of the land at Sørbråten, across from Utøya, and transporting it to Oslo for another memorial where the government complex was bombed in the 2011 attack.
Neighbours living across the water from Utøya immediately objected to the memorial design. A series of efforts to resolve the dispute have failed, and the dispute turned ugly. Now state attorneys claim the proposed memorial does not violate laws protecting neighbours rights. They intend to defend the memorial proposal in court.
“The state understands that (the memorial) can be viewed as a burden for those who live with the memories of the July 22 terror daily,” stated government attorney Anders F Wilhelmsen. “The state nonethless believes that (laws protecting neighbours) won’t be violated by the establishment of this national monument.” He claimed the memorial must be established near where the massacre that killed 69 people occurred.
The state offered to alter the design of the memorial as late as last week, but clung to the same location at Sørbråten. The angry neighbours, who already have moved an impromptu memorial with candles and flowers to another location out of their sight, rejected the compromise, claiming state officials “haven’t understood a thing” about their objections.
Wilhelmsen said the state also seeks to disprove claims that the neighbours were not involved in the memorial selection process. The neighbours first announced last spring that they would go to court to stop the project. They filed suit in June.
Both Labour’s youth organization AUF, which was the target of the massacre by a right-wing extremist Norwegian, and state officials have expressed deep regret over the dispute but want the memorial created. Local newspapers have also editorialized that it would be wrong to halt the memorial project, and have urged the neighbours to withdraw their objections.
The state attorneys have requested a three-week trial in the local Ringerike court, saying that much time will be needed to present a “considerable” amount of evidence in the case.