|40,000 people in Oslo's Youngstorget square (AP)Thousands Defy Norwegian Mass Killer With Song
Posted: April 26, 2012
OSLO, Norway (AP) -- They gathered by the tens of thousands in the drenching rain to face down terrorism with song.
Drawn by a Facebook-organized protest, Norwegians flocked to public squares across the country Thursday and rallied against far-right fanatic Anders Behring Breivik, now on trial for a bomb-and-shooting rampage that killed 77 people.
They sang a Norwegian version of a Pete Seeger tune that the confessed mass killer claims has been used to brainwash the country's youth into supporting immigration.
Defiant singalongs of "Children of the Rainbow" were staged in Oslo and other major Norwegian cities, even as the ninth day of the trial went on with survivors of Breivik's attacks giving tearful testimony.
In downtown Oslo alone, about 40,000 people raised their voices as Norwegian artist Lillebjoern Nilsen played the song, a Norwegian version of Seeger's "My Rainbow Race."
They sang the Norwegian lyrics:
"A sky full of stars, blue sea as far as you can see
"An earth where flowers grow, can you wish for more?
"Together shall we live, every sister, brother
"Young children of the rainbow, a fertile land."
Seeger's lyrics in the original version have a similar message of living together in harmony.
In testimony last week, Breivik mentioned the tune as an example of how he believes "cultural Marxists" have infiltrated Norwegian schools and weakened its society.
The crowd later marched to the Oslo courthouse, where they laid a carpet of red and white roses on the steps and the fence.
Reached at home in Beacon, N.Y., the 92-year-old Seeger told The Associated Press he had heard about the mass gathering in a phone call from Nilsen.
"I said, 'Oh that's wonderful,'" Seeger said. "It's a tremendous honor, really. One of the greatest honors a songwriter could have is to have a song of theirs sung in another country."
The folk singer and his music have been central in many social justice issues from civil rights to the environment. He sang out against the Vietnam War and more recently joined the Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan.
Breivik has admitted to setting off a bomb July 22 outside the government headquarters that killed eight people, and then going on a shooting rampage at the Labor Party's annual youth camp on Utoya island, killing 69 others, mostly teenagers.
Shocked by Breivik's lack of remorse, Norwegians by and large have decided the best way to confront him is by demonstrating their commitment to everything he loathes. Instead of raging against the gunman, they have manifested their support for tolerance and democracy.
"We have a quiet majority that sometimes gets a bit too quiet," said Shoaib Sultan of The Norwegian Centre against Racism. However, he said it was important to "demonstrate tolerance."
Eskil Pedersen, the head of the Labor Party's youth wing, told the umbrella-holding crowd in Oslo that Thursday's song held special significance for his group. "We aren't here because of him, but because of each other," Pedersen said.
Breivik's defense lawyer Geir Lippestad said his client was aware of the singalong protests.
"He has registered that there is something going on outside this place, but he has obviously not seen it with his own eyes," Lippestad told public broadcaster NRK at the courthouse.
In court, people who survived Breivik's car bomb testified emotionally as he listened without expression.
Anne Helene Lund, 24, who was just 7 meters (23 feet) from the explosion, lay in a coma for a month. When she woke up, she had lost her memory, unable to remember even the names of her parents.
"I studied political science for three years. Now I have to relearn social studies at the junior high school level," she testified.
Her father, Jan Henrik Lund, fought back tears as he described seeing his daughter with life-threatening brain injuries.
"It was like experiencing the worst and the best in the same moment," he said. "It was fantastic that she was alive, horrible that she was as injured as she was."
Breivik says he was targeting the governing Labor Party, which he claims has betrayed the country by opening its borders to Muslim immigrants. He coldly described the attacks in gruesome detail last week.
Since he has admitted his actions, Breivik's mental state is the key issue for the trial to resolve. If found guilty and sane, Breivik would face 21 years in prison, although he can be held longer if deemed a danger to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to compulsory psychiatric care.
Breivik said Wednesday that being declared insane would be the worst thing that could happen to him because it would "delegitimize" his views.
Associated Press Writer Rik Stevens in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.