OSLO, NORWAY (AP) - They gathered by the tens of thousands, aiming to face down terror with the power of music.
Inspired by a Facebook-organized protest, Norwegians flocked to public squares across the country Thursday, ignored the drenching rain and lifted their voices in song.
Their target: far-right fanatic Anders Behring Breivik, now on trial for a bomb-and-shooting rampage that killed 77 people. Their weapon: a children’s tune that he claims has been used to brainwash the country’s youth into supporting immigration.
Defiant sing-alongs of “Children of the Rainbow” were staged in Oslo and other major Norwegian cities, while in court survivors of Breivik’s attacks gave tearful testimony in the ninth day of his trial.
In downtown Oslo alone, some 40,000 people chimed in as Norwegian artist Lillebjoern Nilsen played the song _ a Norwegian version of American folk music singer Pete 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.”
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.
Later, the crowd 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 from Nilsen, who called him Thursday morning.
“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.”
Seeger and his music have been central in myriad 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.