Norwegians rally around victims as Breivik appears in court
Anders Behring Breivik appeared in court today, charged with terrorism for his attacks in Oslo and at an island youth camp. In the evening, Norwegians held mass rallies in memory of the 76 people who were killed.
Flashes of anger appeared in a subdued but increasingly defiant Oslo today as Norway got its first glimpse of the man accused of carrying out coordinated attacks that some fear may forever change this open nation.
The accused, Anders Behring Breivik, made his first appearance in a closed courtroom today following his arrest on Friday for the car bombing of government buildings as well as the shooting rampage at a Norwegian Labor Party youth summer camp that killed 76. Authorities today downgraded the death toll from their original estimate of 93 dead.
“The situation on the island on Friday night was quite chaotic,” said Oystein Maeland, Norway’s national police commissioner, describing the island of Utoya where Mr. Breivik allegedly mowed down 68 at the camp during an hour-long shooting spree. “It might have been that some victims were counted twice.”
Mr. Maeland said the number of dead could still rise. Police said they were also investigating a remark the accused made in court referring to “two more cells in our organization,” but said they had little to go on.
Crowds swarmed outside the courthouse, where several youths attacked and cursed an unmarked car pulling into the building. It was later revealed that Breivik had arrived in a different vehicle. In the evening, the mood changed as Norwegians held mass rallies around the country to commemorate the victims of Breivik's attacks. Crown Prince Haakon said in Oslo that "tonight the streets are filled with love."
Breivik will remain in jail for the next eight weeks without access to mail or media outlets as police continue to investigate. He will also spend the first four weeks in total isolation and prosecutors can request to extend his detention, which is scheduled to end Sept. 26.
Oslo district court Judge Kim Heger said the 32-year-old Oslo resident admitted to the facts of the case but has not pleaded guilty to terrorism charges. “The accused believes that he need to carry out these acts in order to save Norway and Western Europe from, among other things, cultural Marxism and Muslim takeover,” Mr. Heger said while reading from the court’s ruling.
Breivik sought to shock Norwegians and cripple the governing Labor party, the judge said, which Breivik blamed for having “failed the country and the people.”
Breivik’s statements to police and the court paint the picture of a man hostile toward multicultural societies and harboring strong xenophobic opinions, especially toward Norway’s more recent immigrants from Muslim countries. Writing in his manifesto posted online hours before the car bomb detonated, Breivik bemoaned the changes Oslo has experienced.
“Oslo used to be a peaceful city. Thanks to the Norwegian cultural Marxist/multiculturalist regime, they have transformed my beloved city into a broken city, a bunkered society, a multiculturalist … hole where no one is safe anymore, to use blunt language,” the document read.
Norway’s leaders have sought to assure the public the deadly attacks would not greatly alter the government’s policies and security measures. An affluent, safe country, Norway prides itself on its accessible politicians and openness to outside.
“The Norway that you meet tomorrow will be recognizable,” Jonas Gahr Store, the country’s foreign minister, said this weekend. “The nature of the Norwegian democracy will not change. Norway will continue to stand for engagement in the world where we commit our resources and our convictions.”
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared at a memorial ceremony on Sunday that the nation “will never give up our values.”
But observers say some changes will come, though their scope remains to be seen.
Mr. Neumann said even though Oslo is the European city with the second largest number of closed-circuit cameras, the city has minimal signs of physical security. No barriers block the roads to ministries, most police officers do not carry weapons on their persons and some of Oslo’s only guards stand at the king’s castle and are largely for show.
“It’s a rather different situation than what you have in the U.S.,” Neumann said, adding that brushing shoulders with the prime minister on the street was not an unusual occurrence. “When people pass him, no one bats an eyelid.”
He said most Norwegians would want to preserve the country’s sense of openness and not introduce strict set of laws. Many in the capital agreed, saying that Norway, unaccustomed to such violence, was trying to avoid giving in to its fury for Breivik.
“I think people are focusing more on staying together and not the violence and revenge,” Oslo resident Thomas Bertelsen said after observing a moment of silence outside the downtown campus of Oslo University. “I hope there will still be an open society.”
He says dealing with the tragedy is not easy since many have some connection to the dead or wounded.
“Everybody knows somebody. It’s a small country,” he adds.