There was a large police presence on Vuorikatu in the centre of Helsinki at noon Monday, as squatters were evicted from a large building there. The building had been vacant for several years when the squatter action began just over two weeks ago. Many of the approximately 50 officers were wearing riot gear.
Although there was a show of force, none was used. To get into the building the police had to dismantle barricades that had been put up in front of the front door, but none of the young people inside put up any resistance.
Those inside were taken away for questioning. They face charges of trespassing.
The occupation of the building had continued for two weeks. The police operation came at the request of the owner - the real estate and investment company Realinvest.
Realinvest CEO Arto Ihto said that the premises were in relatively good shape after the occupation. The squatters had broken a few doors and decorated some of the walls with paint.
Ihto cited "reasons of principle" for the rapid end of the occupation. He said that the squatters posed a hazard for the building itself, and that parties arranged in the building were causing noise and "image" problems.
"There was a certain amount of social disturbance there that was not to our advantage", he said.
The broken doors and windows are to be repaired. The work is to begin next spring at the earliest.
A group of disappointed young people were milling around the building that they called "Omega" after it had been emptied by police.
"I went to buy cigarettes a little before noon. When I came back 15 minutes later the police had closed off the area. Most of the people were already in the buses by then", said Saara Huopalainen.
"This is ridiculous. There were people living there, and there were organised activities."
The squatters got sympathy from passers-by.
"I remember when the nice restaurant on the ground floor called Tube was closed. They said then that a renovation project would begin. I can understand if they keep a building empty for a few months, but four years is a long time", said Teemu Sokka who happened to be in the area when the police operation took place.
"A good party was to have taken place in the building. I just marked a concert by [Finnish rock band] Paleface in my calendar for tomorrow. Now it looks like it will be cancelled."