Norwegians Sing To Defy Mass Murderer

Some 40,000 people gathered on the streets of Oslo on Thursday to sing a Norwegian nursery rhyme that mass murderer Anders Breivik says he hates. Breivik is on trial in connection with his slaughter of 77 people last summer in Norway.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There is not a lot to sing about in Norway these days. The right-wing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik has been unrepentant during his trial for killing 77 people. But today, the people of Norway were singing a children's song. And as NPR's Philip Reeves reports, they sang it for Breivik.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHILDREN OF THE RAINBOW")

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Breivik hates this song. That's exactly why these people are singing it. There's a huge crowd - 40,000, say the police. They've gathered in the rain in the capital, Oslo. Old and young are holding roses and Norwegian flags, singing together, crying together under their umbrellas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHILDREN OF THE RAINBOW")

REEVES: The song's called "Children Of The Rainbow." The other day, Breivik declared this song was being used in Norway's schools to brainwash kids. He thinks it's part of a Marxist plot to make Norwegians weak, to make them welcome Muslim immigrants into their midst. Just look at the chorus - together we will live, each sister and each brother, it says.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHILDREN OF THE RAINBOW")

REEVES: That chorus echoed across Norway today. Big crowds gathered to sing it in towns and cities across the land, summoned there by a Facebook campaign to fight Breivik's terrible brutality not with anger, but with music.

The song's by Lillebjorn Nilsen. He adapted it from a Pete Seeger number. Nilsen's a much-loved, bearded folk singer - kind of Norway's Willie Nelson. We're winning, Nilsen reportedly shouted as he led the singing in Oslo. Then, the crowd walked to the courthouse. Inside sat Breivik, stony-faced, without remorse.

The crowd arrived around the same time as Breivik was listening to survivors of his rampage describe their sufferings. A man told how his face was ripped loose from his head by a bomb Breivik detonated. Outside, the crowd added their roses to the piles of flowers in memory of Breivik's victims, and they carried on singing. Philip Reeves, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHILDREN OF THE RAINBOW")

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