Oslo police defend timing of opposing demos after weekend violence

Oslo Police have said that they did not have the capacity on hand to deal with violence that broke out the centre of the city after demonstrations on Saturday.

Oslo police defend timing of opposing demos after weekend violence
Kurdish demonstrators protest in the centre of Oslo on October 26th. Photo: AFP

Saturday night saw violent scenes in the Norwegian capital as Kurdish and pro-Turkish demonstrators clashed.

Demonstrations in front of the Turkish Embassy on Saturday afternoon later escalated into violent confrontations.

Oslo Police said that, while they were aware of the potential for a tense stand-off between opposing groups, a gap of two hours between planned demonstrations by each were considered to be sufficient, NRK reports.

The pro-Turkey demonstration was planned at the country’s embassy in the Frogner area of the city at 1pm, with the Kurdish protest two hours later.

Confrontations between the groups led to seven arrests and two received medical attention as a result of the demonstrations.

“Groups with opposing opinions often wish to demonstrate at the same time. We ended on an interval of two hours. We need strong grounds to set stricter rules than that, provided people are complying with Norwegian law. We are careful not to give any group preferential treatment,” Johan Frederiksen, leader of the FOT (Felles enhet for operativ tjeneste) police unit, told NRK.

Police were aware of the contention between the two groups prior to Saturday’s events, Frederiksen added.

“Most of the demonstrators were reasonable people, but some were operating in the grey zone,” he said to NRK.

Police not expecting demonstrators to march back towards the centre of the city together, he continued.

“That was improvised and took place several hours after the demonstrations should have ended. We did not have the capacity for that type of violence,” he said.

“We resolved the situation without anyone getting injured, and that is the most important thing. But we don’t want scenes like this in our city,” he added.

But an organizer from one of the demonstrating groups said he had warned police of the potential for violence breaking out.

“We were speaking to police since Monday and warned them about this. We said it would be a catastrophe,” Andam Aziz of the UngKurd group told NRK on Saturday evening.

Aziz said he had urged a three-hour gap between the demonstrations.

A branch of the Body Shop cosmetics chain, as well as cars and bus stations in the centre of Oslo sustained damage during Saturday’s events, NRK reports.

READ ALSO: Oslo nightlife: What is behind the recent spate of violence?


Norwegian police end emergency carrying of arms

The temporary arming of all police in Norway, ordered after an attack in Kongsberg left five dead, ended on Friday morning. 

Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo.
Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo. Photo by David Hall on Flickr.

The order for all police in Norway to be armed following an attack in Kongsberg last week was lifted on Friday morning. 

The police said in a statement Friday that, based on the information it had received from police security service PST, there was no longer any basis for maintaining the national armament order. 

“Norwegian police are basically unarmed in daily service, with firearms being stored in police vehicles, and police can be armed in connection with specific missions when needed. In that sense, we are now moving to a normal situation,” Tone Vangen, emergency preparedness director for the police, said in a statement

The police had been armed since last Wednesday following the incident in Kongsberg where Danish citizen Espen Andersen Bråthen killed five with an undisclosed sharp object and shot at police with a bow and arrow.

During police questioning, Bråthen confessed to the killings and to wounding three others. 

Police said earlier this week that the victims were chosen at random. The Danish citizen was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Bråthen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

The 37-year-old had previously announced publicly that he had converted to Islam and police initially reported that there had been fears of radicalisation. 

But police later said that mental illness was to be considered the primary motive for the attack. 

 “As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt said to reporters earlier this week.