Soldiers of Odin

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Soldiers of Odin
Soldiers of Odin 2016.jpg
People wearing shirts with Soldiers of Odin logo
Formation October, 2015[1]
Founder Mika Ranta
Founded at Kemi, Finland
Type NGO[1]
Purpose Anti-immigrant activism

Soldiers of Odin (SOO) is an anti-immigrant street patrol group founded in Kemi, Finland, in October 2015.[1][2] The group was established as a response to thousands of migrants arriving in Finland amid the European migrant crisis.[3]

SOO has denied claims of being a racist or neo-Nazi group in interviews and on their public Facebook page.[3] However, the group's founder, Mika Ranta, has connections to the far-right, neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement[3] and a criminal conviction stemming from a racially motivated assault in 2005.[4][5] According to the Finnish public broadcaster Yle, a private Facebook page for selected members of SOO shows that racism and Nazi sympathies are rampant among higher-ranking members.[3] The group's nature has raised concerns of anti-immigrant vigilantism.[2]

In addition to Finland, affiliates of the group have a presence in Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

History[edit]

Soldiers of Odin was founded in the town of Kemi in Northern Finland in October 2015 in response to an almost ten-fold increase in the number of migrants to Finland following the European migrant crisis in 2015.[2] The founder is Mika Ranta, who, while a self-declared neo-Nazi and member of the Finnish Resistance Movement, maintains that his personal views do not represent the group as a whole.[6]

The group is named after Odin, the god of death and war in Norse mythology.[7][8][9][10] The reference to death and war in the group's name, according to Jurgen Hamsfield, is due to a perceived conflict Soldiers of Odin sees with refugees.[11]

Soldiers of Odin gained momentum in 2016 after incidents such as the New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, the January 2016 stabbing death of Alexandra Mezher, and other migrant-related crime incidents.[2][12]

On March 15, 2016, Soldiers of Odin announced on their Facebook page that they had intervened in the attempted sexual harassment of two underage girls. The group also claimed that the perpetrators were two refugees and that the police thanked Soldiers of Odin for their actions. Further investigation revealed that neither the police nor any bystanders had any knowledge of the event. On March 16, 2016, Soldiers of Odin admitted that one of their members fabricated the story. The group apologized for the announcement and said that the member would be expelled.[13]

The group's number of Facebook likes in Finland alone was more than 49,000 in December 2017.[14] The group began patrolling in Norway in February 2016. which was profiled temporarily in the start-up phase by Ronny Alte (no), a former leader of the Norwegian Defence League and Pegida activist.[15][16][17][18][19] The group began patrols in Sweden in March 2016, marching in several cities and towns.[20][21][22]

According to Yle the Soldiers of Odin have connections to Finnish MV-lehti website and have been promised good visibility in it.[3] MV-lehti website and its owner, Ilja Janitskin, have ties to the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic.[23]

Presence outside Finland[edit]

Soldiers of Odin claims a membership of 600 in Finland.[24] The group also has a presence in Sweden[24] and Norway; however, the Norwegian prime minister condemns the group.[25] The group has a presence in Estonia even though Estonia "has almost no asylum seekers or refugees."[25] Additionally, Soldiers of Odin has a following in the United States,[26] Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick),[27] England,[24] and Germany.[24]

Australia[edit]

The membership of the Soldiers of Odin Australia was registered as a non-profit association with the Victorian government in June 2016.

The group is running "safety patrols" of Federation Square, Birrarung Marr and Bourke Street Mall and outside city train stations at night in Melbourne, Victoria to counteract what it claims is the inability of police to protect the public from rising street crime and gangs such as Apex.[28]

The Soldiers of Odin are unable to explain why they publicly discourage overt racism yet take their name from an overtly anti-immigration far right racist organisation. This has led to widespread cynicism and wariness that they are cashing in on recent anti-immigration rhetoric stirred up by the federal government.[29]

Canada[edit]

Soldiers of Odin established a group in Yukon, Canada, in 2016.[30]

Soldiers of Odin were seen patrolling the streets of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in July 2016. The group told the police that they were not "anti-immigration", and the police confirmed the group had not engaged in any criminal activity as of September 2016. The Edmonton police did say that "If they are the Soldiers of Odin like they are in Europe, we are going to be very concerned".[31]

A Soldiers of Odin group began patrols in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in September 2016 but claimed to be independent and not affiliated with racist and biker groups.[32]

A chapter also appeared in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the fall of 2016, though they also claimed to be unaffiliated with the European groups.[33] The national chapter is based out of nearby Gimli, Manitoba.[33] An educator at MacEwan University counters their claims of non-hate stating "Why name yourself after that group, then, if you don't want to be associated with that ideology? If you truly are interested in community safety, community patrols, there's more than enough volunteer organizations that could have been joined."[33]

A chapter of the Soldiers of Odin formed in Sudbury, Ontario in the summer of 2016, around the same time that the leader of the Finnish Soldiers of Odin was sentenced for aggravated assault[34]. Members soon began volunteering at a local soup kitchen and cleaning up discarded needles in public parks and trails and posting photos of their efforts on social media in an attempt to recruit new members. In August, 2017 Soldiers of Odin were serving hamburgers at a dedication ceremony for organ donors when Chief Paul Pedersen of the City of Greater Sudbury Police Service posed for a photo with them. Popular backlash against the Chief associating with the SOO resulted in a swift apology from the Chief in which he said, "This photo should in no way be interpreted as support for this group."[35] As the story gained attention on social media the SOO appeared to gain significant sympathy from the larger population and members of the SOO and their supporters. Local news media seized the opportunity to report on a story that had captured the public's imagination and fluff pieces about the Soldiers of Odin subsequently appeared on the CBC, The Sudbury Star and Sudbury.com.

A chapter appeared in Sault Ste. Marie in September 2016. A spokesperson for the group said the 11 members would conduct drug needle collection patrols in the city and provide security to a social worker whose work took them into risky areas after dark.[36]

On March 26, Soldiers of Odin members clashed with protesters and police at an anti-racism rally in New Westminster, British Columbia. Several were led away in handcuffs after fights broke out.[37]

Joel Angott, the president of Soldiers of Odin Canada, has said that his group supports "sustainable immigration."[38]

United States[edit]

In early 2016, a number of right wing activists in the United States "were already attempting to create their own Soldiers of Odin groups in the United States, primarily using Facebook as a recruiting and propaganda tool."[26] A number of disparate small groups joined together as Soldiers of Odin USA and "secured official sanction from the Finnish Soldiers of Odin as the 'official' American chapter."[26] Soldiers of Odin USA have various state chapters, ranging in size from a small handful of members to 75 members. The group's organization is reminiscent of a motorcycle club.[26] An examination performed by the Anti-Defamation League of Soldiers of Odin USA's private Facebook group found that members were predominantly white supremacists (including Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and knights of the Ku Klux Klan), self-described Norse pagans, and anti-government extremists and militia group members, including followers of the Three Percenter movement.[26]

Reception[edit]

The Finnish National Police Commissioner, Seppo Kolehmainen (fi), caused confusion when he initially welcomed the establishment of street patrols.[39] In response, the Minister of the Interior, Petteri Orpo, said, "In Finland it is officials who oversee and take care of order in society. It is a simple matter and we will stick to it."[40] Finnish Security Intelligence Service regards the group as unsettling.[41]

Norwegian police initially expressed mixed reactions to the group, with some departments announcing that they would send marching members away, while others said the group was unproblematic.[42] It caused some controversy when Progress Party MP and spokesperson for justice Jan Arild Ellingsen applauded the establishment of the group, saying they should be "praised". Government and party leaders quickly distanced themselves from his comments, stating public security to be the responsibility of the police.[43][44]

The Estonian Prime Minister, Taavi Rõivas, criticized the group saying, “In the Republic of Estonia law and order is enforced by the Estonian police. Self-proclaimed gangs do not increase the Estonian people’s sense of security in any way; rather the opposite.”[45]

Trademark[edit]

In spring 2016, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office accepted a request to register "Soldiers of Odin" as a trademark for clothes, footwear and headgear. The owner of the trademark, however, has no connection to the vigilante street patrol group, and is using her brand as a statement against racism and to bring the authorities' decision to accept Soldiers of Odin as a registered organization into question.[46]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Soldiers of Odin registers as NGO, warns Loldiers against using spoof name". YLE. 15 February 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell (13 January 2016). "Anti-immigrant 'Soldiers of Odin' raise concern in Finland". Reuters. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Soldiers of Odin's secret Facebook group: Weapons, Nazi symbols and links to MV Lehti". YLE. 16 March 2016. 
  4. ^ "Police Commissioner: Street patrols have "no special rights"". YLE. 5 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "Kaikilla Joensuussa partioivan Soldiers of Odin -ryhmän pomoilla useita rikostuomioita". MTV3. 5 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Finland's 'Soldiers of Odin' face off against huggy ladies". Yahoo News. 9 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Soldiers of Odin: The far-right groups in Finland 'protecting women' from asylum seekers". The Independent. 1 February 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2017. The Soldiers of Odin, whose name refers to the Nordic god of war and death, includes known neo-Nazis and followers with criminal records, as well as more typical men. 
  8. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (19 July 2016). "Better Know an RNC White Supremacist: Soldiers of Odin". Slate. Retrieved 9 December 2017. Named after the Norse God of war and death, the Soldiers of Odin patrol city streets, on the lookout for dangerous Muslims. 
  9. ^ Lamoureux, Mack (17 April 2016). "Soldiers of Odin, Europe's Notorious Anti-Immigration Group, Is Beginning to Form Cells in Canada". Vice News. Retrieved 9 December 2017. Now, the group named for the Norse god of death and war (but also wisdom and culture) has come to Canada. 
  10. ^ Montpetit, Jonathan (14 December 2016). "Inside Quebec's far right: Soldiers of Odin leadership shake-up signals return to extremist roots - Montreal". CBC.ca. Retrieved 9 December 2017. In the early evening darkness, four figures huddled in the parking lot of a Quebec City arena, all wearing black sweatshirts emblazoned with a drawing of Odin, a Norse god of war. 
  11. ^ al-Sahli, Nasser (21 January 2016). "Soldiers of Odin: Far-right summons Norse mythology against refugees". Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. Retrieved 9 December 2017. Hamsfield says these outfits are inciting violence against immigrants, in what he believes may be a precursor to a "clandestine civil war" he says extremist right-wingers are seeking. To him, choosing the name Odin, the old Norse god often associated with war, is no coincidence. In truth, many believe the current tension between some in Nordic communities, and immigrants and refugees, can be traced back to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. 
  12. ^ "Soldiers of Odin: The far-right groups in Finland 'protecting women' from asylum seekers". The Independent. 1 February 2016. The Soldiers of Odin, whose name refers to the Nordic god of war and death, includes known neo-Nazis and followers with criminal records, as well as more typical men. 
  13. ^ Soldiers of Odin myöntää: Ahdistelutarina oli lööperiä - "Pyydämme kaikilta anteeksi", Iltalehti 16 March 2016. Accessed on 17 March 2016.
  14. ^ Soldiers of Odin on Facebook
  15. ^ "'Patriot' group Soldiers of Odin debut in Norway". The Local. 15 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "'Soldiers of Odin' anti-immigrant group spreads from Finland to Norway as one of its 'patrols' operates in the country for the first time". Daily Mail. 15 February 2016. 
  17. ^ "Her patruljerer "Soldiers of Odin" for første gang i Norge [Here, the "Soldiers of Odin" patrols in Norway for the first time]". Verdens Gang (in Norwegian). 15 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Nå har"Odins soldater" etablert seg i Norge. - Vi er snart representert i hver krik og krok av landet". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). 23 January 2016. 
  19. ^ "Alte er kastet ut av Odins soldater [Alte kicked out of Soldiers of Odin]" (in Norwegian). NRK. 26 February 2016. 
  20. ^ "Anti-migrant group 'Soldiers of Odin' expands street patrols to Sweden". Russia Today. 24 March 2016. 
  21. ^ "Soldiers of Odin patrullerade i centrala Göteborg [Soldiers of Odin patrolled in central Gothenburg]". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). 26 March 2016. 
  22. ^ "Soldiers of Odin etablerar sig i Sverige - högkvarteret i Finland". Yle (in Swedish). 18 April 2016. 
  23. ^ http://www.iltalehti.fi/uutiset/2016092822385546_uu.shtml
  24. ^ a b c d Vigilantes begin patrols in Norway amid migrant influx, Associated Press (February 15, 2016).
  25. ^ a b Janis Laizans & Joachim Dagenborg, Anti-immigrant 'Soldiers of Odin' expand from Finland to Nordics, Baltics, Reuters (March 2, 2016).
  26. ^ a b c d e Soldiers of Odin USA: The Extreme European Anti-Refugee Group Comes to America, Anti-Defamation League (2016).
  27. ^ Ben Makuch, Soldiers of Odin: Inside the extremist vigilante group that claims to be preserving Canadian values, VICE News (February 1, 2017).
  28. ^ Vedelago, Chris; Houston, Cameron (2016-10-10). "Vigilante-style group Soldiers of Odin patrolling Melbourne CBD". The Age. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  29. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/28/fear-and-loathing-on-the-streets-the-soldiers-of-odin-and-the-rise-of-anti-refugee-vigilantes
  30. ^ "'Refugee-hating' vigilante group Soldiers of Odin pops up in Yukon". 
  31. ^ "Soldiers of Odin, dubbed 'extreme anti-refugee group,' patrol Edmonton streets". 
  32. ^ Azpiri, Jon (20 September 2016). "Critics raise concerns about B.C. chapter of Soldiers of Odin". Global News. 
  33. ^ a b c Francois Biber (September 14, 2016). "Soldiers of Odin Canada says group not the same as what's going on overseas". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  34. ^ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-vigilantes-sentence-idUSKCN0Y92M4
  35. ^ http://www.thesudburystar.com/2017/08/24/soldiers-of-odin-photo-a-mistake-sudbury-chief
  36. ^ Klassen, Jeff (15 September 2016). "Controversial 'patrol' group Soldiers of Odin now walks the alleys of the Sault". sootoday.com. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  37. ^ "Soldiers of Odin arrested at anti-racism rally in Vancouver". CBC. CBC. 
  38. ^ "Controversial Soldiers of Odin group organizing in Hamilton". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  39. ^ "Police Commissioner: Street patrols have "no special rights"". YLE. 5 January 2016. 
  40. ^ "Orpo disappointed by police chief's street patrol comments". YLE. 6 January 2016. 
  41. ^ "Yle paljasti Soldiers of Odinin suljetun Facebook-ryhmän kuvia ja viestejä – Supo: "Aineisto puhuu puolestaan"". 16 March 2016. 
  42. ^ "Politisjef om Odins soldater: – Uproblematisk at de trygger byer og tettsteder" (in Norwegian). 18 February 2016. 
  43. ^ "Soldiers of Odin create political poison in Norway". The Local. 24 February 2016. 
  44. ^ "Anti-immigrant 'Soldiers of Odin' expand from Finland to Nordics, Baltics". Reuters. 2 March 2016. 
  45. ^ "Estonian PM condemns Soldiers of Odin". www.baltictimes.com. Retrieved 2016-03-16. 
  46. ^ Hallamaa, Teemu (16 May 2016). "Soldiers of Odin rekisteröitiin tavaramerkiksi" (in Finnish). Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 17 May 2016. 

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External links[edit]

Media related to Soldiers of Odin at Wikimedia Commons