The decision by the Finnish police on Thursday to remove German style swastika flags from a right wing procession for the Day of Independence has created a legal dilemma in Finland.
Contrary to the laws in countries such as Germany and Sweden, the Nazi symbol is not illegal in Finland. The police confiscated the flags on the grounds that they "could provoke outsiders and endanger public safety".
Helsinki police chief spokesman Juha Hakola told national broadcaster Yle on Friday that the police would appreciate a more precise law on the issue. Hakola also referred to the racist history of the German style swastika.
Finnish Interior Minister Kai Mykkanen said on Friday that he does not support the idea of prohibiting any specific political emblems. He noted the police was able to act on the basis of public safety needs. Outlawing symbols would be difficult as well, he added.
The swastika has a separate history in Finland. The flag of the Finnish air force still exhibits a swastika in the center.
The Finnish air force started using the swastika during its early days in the civil war of 1918. The traditional tank of the army that appears in parades also shows the blue swastika on its front. The Finnish swastika is blue against white background.
Political commentators have noted that earlier Finnish extreme right wanted to underline they were not associated with the German Nazi tradition, but these days similarity with many of the ideals of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s is acknowledged.
The flags confiscated on Thursday night were red with the black swastika against a white circle in the middle.
The procession with the swastikas was arranged by the Nordic resistance movement. The organisation was banned in court but the issue is still in the hands of the supreme court. The police said before the procession that they could march legally as the decision to ban them was not valid yet.
The police arrested 20 people in various incidents in total. There were demonstrations in Helsinki both for and against right wing attitudes.
Besides arresting the four people carrying the swastika flags, the police made arrests in connection with other marches. The largest skirmish was near the parliament building late Thursday. No injuries have been reported.