Oslo police had warned against any large public gatherings to promote Pride after the mass shooting this weekend. It’s been linked to the Pride movement to promote tolerance and sexual diversity, but thousands showed up on the plaza outside City Hall anyway to show solidarity and wave the rainbow flag.
“I feel much safe here than any other place right now,” one participant, Marie Sværen, told state broadcaster NRK. She felt that everyone was protecting one another.
Oslo’s huge Pride Parade scheduled for Saturday was cancelled after a 43-year-old Nowegian citizen originally from Iran started shooting in a neighbourhood with several bars late Friday night. He killed two men and wounded 21 before being wrestled to the ground and arrested by police.
The police intelligence agency PST quickly raised the terror alarm, urged that the parade on Saturday be cancelled and then also urged against an alternative rally planned for Monday evening. The city, which had opened its plaza for the Pride demonstration, felt compelled to urge the public not to attend.
Thousands didn’t listen. “We’re here to show that the battle (for equality and acceptance) goes on,” another participant, Rain Vangen Dalberg, told NRK.
Others headed for the venerable London Pub, located in the area where the mass shooting unfolded and which reopened Monday evening. It’s known for a gay clientele. “We’re taking back London and our area,” said frequent customer Åshild Knutsen. “We’re back with our family now.”
PST continues to warn of an “extraordinary threat situation,” not least because they lack an overview of people identified as being potentially dangerous, also for the gay community.
“We’re talking concretely about a milieu that supports Islamic extremists and people who think that violence is a legitimate means of achieving their goals,” said PST chief Roger Berg on NRK’s national radio program Dagsnytt 18. “And in this situation it’s the (non-heterosexual) milieu they’re focusing on.”
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday that Facebook had closed the account of Norwegian Islamic extremist Arfan Bhatti, after he’d expressed support for justifying the death penalty for homosexuals in Islam. NRK has also reported that the gunman in Friday night’s mass shooting, Zania Matapour, has had contact with Bhatti, who has multiple convictions for making threats, extortion and violence.