Oslo: 'Children used as shields'

Oslo: 'Children used as shields'

A group of children with t-shirts and hands painted to look bloody went first in the demonstration procession from the Parliament to Israel's embassy yesterday. This was, among other things, to help prevent the demonstration from becoming violent, according to the organizers.

When the demonstrators got to the embassy the children were first in line and called out slogans, while the other were held back by the organizer's own guards.

It quickly turned out that the children unfortunately didn't contribute to the demonstration from being peaceful. A firecracker was thrown at the police which exploded right by the small children, who were very frightened and had to be led away.

Erling Lae, council head in Oslo, doesn't want to see children used in this way in another demonstration again.

"In this case children were intentionally used as shields. It was very unwise and I don't want this to repeat itself. I want to call upon the organizers of the demonstrations like this not to bring children in the future, and in any case, not first in a procession, knowing that it can cause dangerous situations," he told Dagbladet.no.

Retired police Superintendent in Finn Abrahamsen agrees with Lae that children shouldn't be used in this way in demonstrations, but at the same time thinks that they should be allowed to participate.

"Generally it's good that children participate in demonstration processions like this, because they are very involved in what happens and want to contribute in this way. What was a problem here was that they could have counted on there being riots, and then it's stupid and unwise to let them go first." Abrahamsen told Dagbladet.no.

Erling Lae is disappointed and shocked that proper street fights have broken out twice in one week in Oslo after demonstrations.

"It's important that we are crystal clear that we won't accept violence as an expression of opinion. In Norway we argue verbally, we don't attack other people. What happened now isn't politics, but violent criminality," says Lae.

Lae is now on vacation. When he heard of yesterday's riots he tried to come back quicker, but it wasn't practically possible.

"I myself, as soon as we get more facts on the table, will be calling a meeting in the police council in Oslo, there we from the municipality will sit together with representatives from the police. We must go through the situation and see where it failed, not least in relation to minority groups," says Lae.

Both psychologists and politicians react to having children in such a vulnerable position.

"it's unfortunate for children to be included in demonstration if people know that there's a danger that the atmosphere might get heated up and degenerate into violence," says psychologist and head of the Psychological Crisis Center in Bergen, Atle Dyregrov, According to NTB.

"We are not afraid of having the children go first, everybody knows that the children are in the procession and this is a peaceful demonstration. But we are disappointed that it degenerated like that and that the children were afraid," says Rima Yehya, a mother to two, to Aftenposten.

During Saturday's demonstration it took considerably longer before the police answered the demonstrators with teargas. Though the demonstrators showered the police with firecrackers, bottles, stones and planks, the team heads said that they would stand by and let the guard attempt to calm down the situation.

It worked for awhile, but in the end they had to turn to teargas. Altogether 160 people were arrested.

"From the reports I received, I think the police should get praise and thank for the way they handled the demonstrations," says Lae.

Finn Abrahamsen agrees. "My impression is that the police showed a great deal of patience, and it was probably wise. they had probably hoped that it will die out by itself, but in the end had to intervene."

This time several hundred people were out in central Oslo. They shot firecrackers into the Mason's lodge, where there was a children's party, and wrecked several McDonald's restaurants.

Youth social worker Tor Bach thinks the youth responsible for this are frustrated minority youth who feel they are ignored in Norwegian society and have no political agenda.

"The riots Thursday was the occasion that could have gotten many to release too many frustrations at the same time. The yotuh were on the agenda today more than when 10,000 people gathered at Youngstorget square with the Oslo Bishop and LO heads (trade union confederation) in the lead," says Back to Aftenposten.

Abrahamsen thinks the police and the politicians must see what can prevent similar situations in the future.

"We must learn from things like this, not just get down in the trenches. We must find out what is the case and was can be done," he told Dagbladet.no.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

Previous articles:
* Oslo: Youth outlook at the demonstrations
* Oslo: Muslims save pro-Israel demonstrator (+video)
* Oslo: Anti-Israel demonstration turns ugly (+video)

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