“A vibrating sense of unity”
Thousands gather in streets of Oslo after attack
MARIUS HELGE LARSEN
Thousands of people gathered in central Oslo on June 25 to mourn, hug each other, and strongly dissociate themselves from the brutal shooting attack the night before.
In the early morning hours, a lone gunman opened fire in the London pub, a popular gay bar in central Oslo, killing two and injuring 21. The suspect, Zaniar Matapour, a Norwegian citizen with ties to extremist Islamic groups, has been taken into custody.
“There is a love and caring in the streets. People are out in a way that is low-key and kind,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to NTB.
Together with the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, he laid flowers at the scene where two people were shot and killed and several injured the night before. The delegation, which also included several government ministers, the mayor, and the city council leader, was clearly affected by the seriousness of the situation.
“It’s a huge and cruel drama. We woke up to this during the night. That there was a shooting, and people were killed in Oslo on an evening that was a prelude to a big Pride parade is deeply tragic and makes a great impression on many,” said Støre.
Stands up for rights
Along the way, people stood crying and holding each other, and both members of the government and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess stopped to give a hug to the people they met.
A sea of rainbow flags and flowers has already been laid down around the corner from the London pub, where the attack took place. The pub is a popular meeting place for gays.
“Norway is a country where you are allowed love whoever you want. It is important that we stand up for these rights. We can not take it for granted; it is something we must fight for, and that is what we are doing now,” said Crown Prince Haakon after contributing his bouquet to the flower pile.
A Pride parade anyway
In front of the Storting, many had gathered on the lawn to mark Pride in their own way, even though the official events have been canceled. Many applauded as the politicians and royals passed by on their way to the scene.
Earlier in the day, several hundred people gathered in the streets for a spontaneous Pride parade from the Grønland neighborhood in Oslo to the scene, even though the official parade was canceled.
“The fight continues” and “we’re here, we’re queer, and we will not disappear,” were among the shouts from the crowd.
Cheers and shouts were heard in the streets, amid rainbow flags and clenched fists. It was not a party parade, but a protest parade against the killings and violence.
“We do it to mark strength, fearlessness, to show that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” said another of those who were in the parade, Tore Sinding Bekkedal.
Bekkedal has painfully experienced terror up close before, as a participant in the Utøya camp in 2011.
“We are many who have warned against a dehumanizing rhetoric. We must stand up and show that such tactics do not yield results, he says.
Minister of Culture and Gender Equality Anette Trettebergstuen (Labor Party) was clearly affected after laying flowers at the scene.
“It was very powerful to see everyone who had been there with flowers and how many who, despite the level of terror, had turned up to show their support and sympathy today,” she said to NTB.
She described the atmosphere in the city as “heavy and strong.”
“I feel a vibrating feeling of unity and community. Something that is so painful can at the same time create something very, very beautiful, and you feel that in people today,” she said.
The attack led to the cancellation of all official Pride events in Oslo, following a recommendation from the police.
“We were to celebrate, be happy and to party, then it was the opposite. But I think we say that it is not canceled, it is postponed. We will once again celebrate and be together in happiness over the diversity among us,” Trettebergstuen said.
This article originally appeared in the July 8, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.