Solemn silence and rage as Norway remembers murders

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 25, 2011 10:25 AM
Solemn silence and rage as Norway remembers murders

By Jon Hemming

OSLO (Reuters) - Solemn silence for the victims and raw rage for the killer -- Norwegians struggled to come to grips with the worst massacre in their modern history on Monday.

People across Norway marked a minute's silence and cities came to a standstill late in the morning in remembrance for the more than 90 people killed by Anders Behring Breivik in a bomb attack in Oslo and shooting rampage on a tiny island on Friday.

But the grief was transformed into fury as protesters later attacked an unmarked police Volvo car they believed was carrying Breivik to court for a custody hearing.

"Bloody traitor," they shouted, briefly managing to stop the vehicle before police intervened.

"Get out, get out!" shouted Alexander Roine, who said that some of his friends had been at the island where Breivik spent an hour gunning down teenagers at a ruling party youth camp.

"If we'd got him out of the car we would have ... killed him," he said using strong expletives, but it later emerged they had got the wrong car and Breivik arrived at the court in an armored police Mercedes.

Affluent Norway prides itself on being an open, tolerant, relatively crime-free society which has striven to broker peace efforts in the Middle East, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Breivik's crimes have repulsed the nation, but most Norwegians have vowed to not let it change them. Aside from the uncharacteristic outburst of anger, the overwhelming mood was one of dignified determination to show respect for the dead.

Muffled applause rippled through a crowd of around 1,000 as King Harald arrived at Oslo University to sign a book of remembrance. He and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg then mounted the steps of the neo-classical building, turning to face the hushed throng standing in the summer drizzle.

"In remembrance of the victims ... I declare one minute's national silence," Stoltenberg said on the university steps next to the king and queen, the group flanked by two burning torches.

TRAGEDY

The silence stretched to five minutes as many thousands more gathered around a carpet of flowers outside Oslo cathedral. The only sound was the squawking of seagulls and a lone dog barking.

Cars and trams stopped in the streets and their occupants got out and remained motionless as traffic lights changed from red to green.

Breivik, 32, has admitted to the killings, but denies any criminal guilt, declaring in a rambling 1,500-page online manifesto he was on a self-appointed mission to save Europe from what he saw as the threats of Islam, immigration and multi-culturalism.

"This is a tragic event to see all these young people dying due to one man's craziness. It is important to have this minute of silence so that all the victims and the parents of the families know that people are thinking about them," said mechanic Sven-Erik Fredheim, 36, shortly before the silence.

Nordic neighbors Sweden, Finland and Denmark also held official minute's silences.

Many of the notes left among the flowers around Oslo cathedral quoted a speech by Stoltenberg on Sunday.

"If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we all can show together," they read.

A heart-shaped note written in child's handwriting, the 's' letters back-to-front, said: "We send our thoughts to you who died and were hurt."

"This minute of silence was needed for the dead and the families. This will be a significant day for Norway in the future, for the people and the families after this horrible thing that happened," said Anetta Ronningen, 32, a teacher.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty, Ole Petter Skonnord and Aasa Christine Stolz; Editing by Peter Millership)