Norwegians flocked to public squares across the country Thursday and lifted their voices in song. Inspired by a Facebook-organized protest tens of thousands gathered with the goal of facing down terror with the power of music.
Our target: the far-right fanatic terrorist from July 22 last year, now on trial for the bombing and shooting rampage that killed 77 people. Our weapon: A children’s tune that the terrorist claims has been used to brainwash the country’s youth into supporting immigration.
In downtown Oslo alone, some 40 000 people chimed in as the Norwegian artist Lillebjørn Nilsen played the song “Children of the Rainbow” – a Norwegian version of American folk music singer Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race”. Seeger and his music have been central in a myriad of social justice causes from civil rights to the environment. He sang out against the Vietnam War and more recently joined the Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan.
I was at this public square in Oslo called Youngstorget and it was a heart touching moment where people did everything from crying to laughing in the strong shared feeling of how great it was to fight terror with love, care, roses and a song:
We sang the Norwegian lyrics by Nilsen:
“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, you and me – Young children of the rainbow, a fertile land and seashore”
The direct reason for singing that song was that in testimony last week, the terrorist mentioned the tune as an example of how he believes “cultural Marxists” have infiltrated Norwegian schools and weakened its society. We, the people of Norway wanted to prove him wrong and “take back the song where it belongs!” I do hope you get an idea of the magical, non violent way it was done in this mixed vid I’ve made:
Defiant sing-alongs of “Children of the Rainbow” were staged in Oslo and other major Norwegian cities, while in court survivors of the terrorist’s attacks gave tearful testimony in the ninth day of the trial.
“I care about the people who died and whose family members died. This march is about them and about our Norway, not his (terrorist’s) Norway,” said Peter Solberg, a 46-year-old office worker who survived the bombing in Oslo.
Eskil Pedersen, the head of the Labor Party’s youth wing, told this umbrella-decked crowd in Oslo (to be seen in the photos above) that this song held special significance for his group. “We aren’t here because of him, but because of each other,” he said.
And later, the crowd marched to the Oslo courthouse, where we laid a carpet of roses on the steps and the fence. Shocked by the terrorist’s lack of remorse for his massacre, Norwegians by and large have decided the best way to confront him is by demonstrating our commitment to everything he loathes. Instead of raging against the gunman, we want to manifest our support for tolerance and democracy.
Since he has admitted to the attacks, the terrorist’s mental state is the key issue for the trial to resolve. If found guilty and sane, he 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.
I will like to end this post with a quote that sums up the Norwegian attitude and how we like to deal with this tragedy. It was said by one of the survivors of the massacre: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we can show together”.
The tragedy of the 22 of July, 2011 affected all the people of Norway. However at times like this when I see all people joining together to show that we will not answer hate with hate and violence with violence, I feel happy to be Norwegian.