HELSINKI – One sign in Helsinki read: “Build saunas not war!”
Activists used Monday’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold two days of high-profile protests in the Finnish capital over a variety of grievances.
Abortion-rights activists dressed up Monday in bulging bellies and Trump masks. Anti-fascist protesters carried signs with expletive-laden insults. Free traders, anti-war Ukrainians, environmentalists and rainbow flag-waving gay rights supporters all vied for attention from the world’s media.
In a city proud to defend the right to protest, demonstrators were scattered about. Some stayed at barriers erected by police to try to register their complaints as the world leaders sped by in armor-plated vehicles for their summit at Finland’s presidential palace.
Others marched by Helsinki landmarks, far away from the leaders’ gathering but in clear view of curious residents and tourists.
At the city’s Senate Square, about 20 male “pregnant Trumps” and 20 women wearing pink gags railed against a Trump order that bans providing federal money to international family-planning groups that perform abortions or provide information about them.
At the same location, a Finnish pro-Israel group was voicing support for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Another march that drew hundreds of people was a mishmash of messages – some supporting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some shouting “Fascists go home!” Some marchers questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s election victory since he lost the popular vote. Another sign read: “A woman’s place is in the Resistance.”
“I don’t think the two people meeting today are going to care whether we are here or not, frankly,” said Helsinki protesters Tina Aspiala, 43. “It’s more of a global solidarity against a lot of things that are messed up, and I think that that’s why it’s worth coming out.”
Some marchers had professionally designed banners while others scrawled slogans like “Not Welcome” onto homemade posters or warned of a looming apocalypse.
On Sunday, 2,000 people marched through the city to promote human and sexual rights, democracy and environmental issues. Organizers for “Helsinki Calling” said the protest wasn’t aimed directly against the U.S. or Russian presidents but was designed to focus on key global issues.
“We celebrate the Helsinki spirit here,” said Timo Heikkinen, a 50-year-old from Helsinki. “And we welcome everybody who respects human rights and democracy and doesn’t share fake news.”
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