Poll: majority in Helsinki region oppose squatting and other direct action campaigns
A majority of residents of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa take a negative view of certain types of urban activism.
According to a poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat and conducted by Suomen Gallup, four out of five residents of the Helsinki region do not approve of squatting campaigns, or deflating the tyres of SUVs in the name of environmental protection.
Helsinki residents tend to be more tolerant of the activities of urban activists than those of neighbouring Espoo and Vantaa.
Young respondents also tend to have more understanding for the activists than those in older age groups.
There is also considerable variation according to party affiliation. Over half of supporters of the Left Alliance and over a third of voters who support the Green League approve of direct action of the activists.
Such activities are an anathema to supporters of the Swedish People's Party, the National Coalition Party, and the Centre Party.
The new squatting movement became active in Helsinki on the First of May 2001, when the empty Iraqi Embassy was occupied for a short time. Other squatting actions have taken place regularly since then.
There was a new surge in squatting from last summer. About ten squatting actions have taken place in Helsinki in the past year.
Leo Stranius, who has studied squatting actions, says that there are a number of different motivations for those in the squatting movement.
Stranius, who is writing a doctoral thesis on social activist movements, says that the crackdown on graffiti in Helsinki, and increased monitoring of public places has led to a backlash. "There is also a certain carniavlistic element involved."
An international campaign in which environmental activists let the air out of the tyres sports-utility vehicles appears to be spreading to Finland as well.
For instance, activists in Sweden calling themselves "Indians of the asphalt jungle" have deflated the tyres of more than 1,000 gas guzzlers.
In Turku, several urban SUVs had their tyres deflated in February. Notes were left on the windscreens declaring "Your SUV kills". There has been at least one suspected case in Helsinki.
The poll involved telephone interviews with 1,001 people representing the population of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa over the age of 18.
The margin of error is a maximum three percentage points in either direction.