26 Apr 2012

Norwegians hold musical demo in defence of tolerant society

Tens of thousands of Norwegians hold musical protests in towns across the country, following days of defiant testimonies by Anders Behring Breivik during his trial for the murder of 77 people.

Up to 40,000 people staged an emotionally-charged sing-along in Oslo near the court house where Breivik is on trial. Organisers said the event was to show that the 33-year-old a right wing extremist had not broken their tolerant society.

The crowd chose to sing a song – “Children of the Rainbow” – a song that Breivik had he specifically dismissed during the trial as Marxist propaganda.

Organisers said the song, penned by US folk singer Pete Seeger, extols the type of multicultural society Breivik has said he despised.

‘Some hope to take the easy way: Poisons, bombs. They think we need ’em. Don’t you know you can’t kill all the unbelievers? There’s no shortcut to freedom.’ – My Rainbow Race, Pete Seeger

“It’s we who win,” said guitar-strumming folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen, who had popularlised the song in Norway, as he led the mass singalong in Oslo and watched the crowd sway gently in the rain. Many held roses above their heads, and some wept.

The protest followed several days of defiant testimony from Breivik who has admitted he killed his victims in a blood soaked attack on Norway’s multicultural society, but denied criminal guilt, saying he did so in self-defence.

People then marched several blocks, to the district courthouse where Breivik is on trial, close to the site where he set off a bomb that killed eight people on 22 July.

Breivik has often used chillingly graphic language to describe his actions, but it seems to have taken his comments over the “Children of the Rainbow” song to touch a nerve in a country that prides itself on a tradition of tolerance and justice.

Lillebjoern Nilsen, popularlised the song in Norway,

Reclaiming the song

Other singalongs took place around Norway, following an internet campaign to “reclaim” the song.

Mr Nilsen passed on greetings to the protesters from the 93-year-old Mr Seeger: “He answered his phone at home in Beacon, New York. And he had to adjust his hearing aid before he understood that I was on the line.

“But when he realized it he said ‘How nice Lillebjorn’. And when I told him about this event, I hear old Pete Seeger say ‘Oh me, oh my, I wish you luck’.”

The protest came as survivors lined up inside the courtroom to take the witness stand and describe the bombing, which precede Breivik’s killing spree on the island of Utoya.

“I was spitting teeth,” said Harald Foesker, who had been at work in the Ministry of Justice when the 950kg fertiliser bomb went off outside his window.

“I felt at once that this was a terror attack on the government building… I called for help but nobody answered.”

He said that he lost 80 per cent of his vision and his face had to be restored afterwards, adding he was proud to live in a country that treated criminal defendants with dignity.

Breivik, 33, has called his victims “traitors” who deserved death for embracing left-wing values which, in his view, opened Europe to a slow-motion Muslim invasion.

He had said he felt he had no choice but to strike back, bombing government offices and staging a brutal gun massacre at a Labour Party island summer camp that killed 69 people.