Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thousands of Norwegians gather to sing song Breivik hates

A crowd sings a song hated by mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik during a protest in Oslo, Norway on April 26, 2012. Photo/AFP

A crowd sings a song hated by mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik during a protest in Oslo, Norway on April 26, 2012. Photo/AFP 

By AFP

Tens of thousands of rose-waving Norwegians gathered in rain-drenched Oslo Thursday to deride mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik by singing a song he hates, viewing it as Marxist indoctrination.

Some 40,000 people, according to police, massed in the rain at a square near the courthouse where Breivik is on trial for his July 22 attacks that killed 77 people, to sing "Children of the Rainbow" by Norwegian folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen.

Inside the court, the 33-year-old accused right-wing extremist sat listening without showing emotion to powerful testimony from survivors of his bloodbath on the ninth day of his trial.

Last Friday, Breivik had said that Nilsen was "a very good example of a Marxist" who had infiltrated the cultural scene and that his song was typical of the "brainwashing of Norwegian pupils."

Protesters ranging from elderly in wheelchairs to young school children streamed into Youngstorget Square wearing colourful raincoats and carrying Norwegian flags and roses, which have come to represent Norway's peaceful response to the horrifying attacks.

The culture ministers of the Nordic countries were also at the square to participate, while other similar events were to take place across Norway.

Norwegian Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt admitted she had wept as Nilsen led the chorus and the crowd sang along, waving roses in the air.

Afterwards they walked slowly together, still singing the song, to the courthouse to add their roses to the piles of flowers already lining the security barriers outside in memory of Breivik's victims.

The song is an adaptation of US folk singer Pete Seeger's "My Rainbow Race" and is very popular in the Scandinavian country.

Its chorus goes: "Together, we will live, each sister and each brother, small children of the rainbow and a green earth."

"The song has never been so beautiful before," said Lill Hjoennevaag, who was one of people who started a Facebook campaign last Friday in reaction to Breivik's comments about Nilsen's song, calling on the public to "reclaim the song" and sing it together near the courthouse.

"The turnout was far better than I had expected," Hjoennevaag told AFP.

Only around 5,000 people had announced on the social networking site that they would be participating.

On July 22, 2011, Breivik first set off a bomb near government offices in Oslo, killing eight people, before going to nearby Utoeya island where he shot dead 69 people, mostly teens, attending a Labour Party youth camp.

While he has confessed to carrying out the twin attacks, he refuses to plead guilty, saying his attacks were "cruel but necessary" to stop the ruling Labour Party's "multicultural experiment" and the "Muslim invasion" of Norway and Europe.

"We are the ones who are winning!" Nilsen -- a beloved, Willy Nelson-esque folk singer dressed in his trademark black and with a grey beard -- told the rose-waving crowd.

At about the same time, Breivik sat stony-faced listening to survivors of his Oslo bombing describing in horrifying detail their experiences on July 22.

Anne Helene Lund, a bubbly 24-year-old, described how the explosion hurled her out of the tower housing the prime minister's offices, where she had been working for the summer as a receptionist.

Seriously injured, she suffered massive memory loss: she said she remembers virtually nothing from the three years she spent studying politics and had been forced to start over with studies at secondary school level.

Her doctor father Jan Henrik Lund described the atrocious injuries his daughter had suffered, telling the court she had come "just millimetres from death" and pointing out that she had been nicknamed "the miracle girl" by her rescuers.

"It was like living the best and the worst at the same time," he said of the moment he had finally found his daughter at a hospital, in a coma, on the evening of July 22.

"It was fantastic to find her alive, but awful to see her so injured," said Lund, who wept several times during his testimony.

Prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh and many spectators in the courtroom also fought back tears, but Breivik himself continued to stare straight ahead, apparently unaffected by the testimony.

Another survivor, Harald Foesker, a 67-year-old government employee who had been on vacation on July 22 but had stopped by his office to print some documents, told the court that his "face was ripped loose from his head" when the blast occurred.

"I was hanging there, and I was spitting out my teeth," he recalled.

After several big operations he has been able to return to work part-time.

"It is up to me to decide when I want to stop working. No one else," said Foesker, who has lost 80 percent of his sight, turning towards Breivik.

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