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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Demonstrators block streets, occupy Parliament to secure Sami human rights

Sami and environmental activists set off a new round of demonstrations in Oslo on Wednesday, part of an ongoing effort to secure their human rights. They’re marking the second anniversary of a Norwegian Supreme Court decision invalidating the construction of wind turbines on Sami land at Fosen, and the Norwegian government’s refusal to remove them.

Demonstrators have arrived in Oslo to once again to demand Sami land back from the government, which allowed wind power developers to build large turbines that disturb Sami reindeer herding in the area. The Norwegian Supreme Court has ruled that construction of the turbines violated Sami human rights and was invalid, but they’re still standing, two years after the decision was handed down. The new demonstrations blocked the main boulevard through downtown Oslo, Karl Johans Gate. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

Their protests began early in the morning, when they set up Sami tents known as a lavvo along the main boulevard in downtown Oslo, Karl Johans Gate. They also blocked a side street connecting to Karl Johan, and intend to sleep in the tents at night.

Rules for the demonstration were clearly posted. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

Another group clad in traditional Sami dress entered the Parliament building and both sat and laid down in the section known as Vandrehallen, where top politicians often hold debates, chat with journalists and amongst themselves. By mid-afternoon Parliament officials had grown weary of the demonstrators’ loud joiking (a form of Sami chant and song) and asked for police assistance to remove them. By late day they were still there.

They say their patience has run out once again since the government still refuses to act on the Supreme Court decision. The Sami want the government to remove the turbines that were built over their protests on Sami land at Fosen in Trøndelag, and which disturb their reindeer grazing.

At least one of their joiks was directed at Oil & Energy Minister Terje Aasland, who now holds political responsibility for the standoff that began in earnest last winter. At that time, the Sami had waited 500 days for the government to act on the Supreme Court decision from 2021, to no avail.

Aasland acknowledge once again on Wednesday that it is the government’s responsibility to find a solution to the conflict, but he won’t promise any dismantling of the wind turbines yet. He claimed to respect the new demonstration by what he called “youngsters,” telling state broadcaster NRK  that it was “part of our democracy, and we should protect freedom of expression.”

Outdoor demonstrations also began with a Sami joik, and featured a banner reading “Respect existence or expect resistance.” PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

Those outside the Parliament building didn’t appear impressed, with one woman finding his remarks patronizing. She noted how three busloads of demonstrators had arrived in Oslo from Bergen, Bodø and Tromsø and were determined to maintain their blockade of Karl Johans Gate and camp in the tents “for as long as it takes” to win concessions from the government.

Reindeer herders from Fosen also appeared and spoke at a midday rally outside the Parliament about their frustration over the lack of progress in mediation with the government. One of the herders called the government’s alleged delay tactics “shameful,” claiming their battle against the state taking over their land “isn’t just for us, but for the entire Norwegian population.” He called dealing with the government “difficult, tough and painful. Many here are frustrated and angry.”

There have been reports the state is budgeting for monetary compensation to be offered to the herders for violating their human rights. Many aren’t interested in money, though, and just want their land back.

A police van was parked close to the demonstrations but there was no immediate interference.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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