COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Oslo police were seen forcibly removing protesters, including Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, from blocking entrances of Norwegian government buildings on Wednesday.
Protesters from an indigenous Sámi youth association and an environmental group called Nature and Youth have demonstrated around numerous ministries in the Norwegian capital since occupying the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy building last week in opposition to a wind farm project interfering with reindeer herders.
“We have said we are shutting down the state of Norway, department by department. Today we have also blocked the Ministry of Climate and Environment and the Ministry of Economy and Fisheries,” Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen, a Sámi musician and spokesperson, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
Protests led by Sámi youth group NSR Nuorat have grown daily as other demonstrators have joined, including Thunberg, who was denied entry to the oil and energy department by authorities on Sunday.
The activists are demanding the dismantling of 150 wind turbines illegally standing on Sámi territory, threatening the age-old tradition of reindeer herding as the turbines startle animals from grazing with noise and their large size, herders argue.
A verdict from Norway’s Supreme Court in October 2021 deemed licenses granted by the government to build and operate two wind farms in the Fosen regional of central Norway illegal, finding they violated a 1966 treaty known as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The order was issued over 500 days ago, but no government action has been taken since then.
The Sámi are an indigenous group with a population of around 80,000 spread across northern parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. Reindeer herding continues to serve as a primary income source for many Sámi today.
In light of the protests, ministry staffers were told to work from home earlier this week. On Wednesday, Oslo police said activists who do not move voluntarily would be forced away from various ministerial entrances.
Terje Aasland, Norway’s minister of petroleum and energy, confronted protesters last week and said he did not have any new information to share regarding the Fosen case.
Aasland had invited protesters to go with him on Tuesday, but they refused to talk with the minister. According to NRK, the demonstrators only want direct talks with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, a demand the Norwegian leader indicated he is willing to meet.
In addition, Aasland has asked the parliament, known as the Storting, for a follow-up report on the Fosen case.
“I have asked the Storting to come and give a statement on behalf of the government about the Fosen case. It is very important for the government to arrive at a solution that safeguards the indigenous rights of the reindeer herding owners at Fosen. There I will give information about the government's work on this issue,” he said on Wednesday.
The Sámi Parliament of Norway, which acts on behalf of the Sámi people within the Norwegian political system, has reached out to the United Nations about the Fosen case, according to a letter obtained by NRK on Wednesday.
“My position is that the state must immediately stop the ongoing violations of the Sámi reindeer herders' human rights and take measures to correct violations of human rights. The windmills must be demolished and the area reclaimed,” Sámi Parliament President Silje Karine Muotka wrote in the letter addressed to José Francisco Calí Tzay, special rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples at the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“Finally, I hope you can consider communicating with the Norwegian authorities about the case, either to request information from them or to express concern about the Fosen case,” she wrote.
Protests are unlikely to stop anytime soon, as activists from NSR-Nuorat and Nature and Youth announced in a joint press conference they will demonstrate at the Storting on Friday.
Sámi musicians and Norwegian music arrangers will show support for the Fosen protesters with a concert in Oslo on Friday, with free entry for anyone supporting the demonstrations.Follow @LasseSrensen13
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