Carnations, Neo-Nazis and a Water Cannon – More Demonstrations in Ljubljana
This was taken at about 6 pm last night, shortly after protesters were giving carnations to police officers stationed in front of Parliament. About four hours later police used a water cannon in Slovenia for the first time.
I’m sick as a dog and didn’t stay in the chill and drizzle for very long, so this is a rundown based mostly on local press accounts of what was, somewhat astonishingly, the second demonstration in a week here in Slovenia to turn violent.
Upwards of 10,000 people gathered in Ljubljana yesterday, one of seven Slovenian cities where hastily organized demonstrations took place to protest what’s perceived as widespread fraud and corruption, austerity measures, and the economic reform policies of the center-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Here in the capital, the demonstration began at 4 pm in Kongresni Trg, or Congress Square, before moving a couple hours later towards Trg Republike, or Republic Square, near Parliament. Protesters were loud and at times blunt, but peaceful. Police stationed near Parliament were relaxed –certainly much more than they were on Tuesday– some of them exchanging banter and conversation with demonstrators. Many were wearing carnations given to them by protesters whose chants included, ‘higher salaries for police’.
I left at about 6:30; an hour later the mood shifted dramatically. Provocateurs, described by many on the scene as well organized and numbering perhaps four to five dozen, began throwing bottles, rocks, bricks and fireworks. Under the spotlight of a helicopter, police soon responded with tear gas. When the rock-throwing idiots were eventually forced from Republic Square and back towards Congress Square, the water cannon was brought in. At night’s end, 33 were arrested and 18 treated for injuries at local hospitals.
So who were these provocateurs? Neo-Nazi and right wing groups who have mushroomed over the past four years, according to local press reports, eyewitness accounts and conjecture on twitter. Most were young, some under-age, and among those arrested, some had previous records.
Elsewhere in Slovenia things were calm. In the north central city of Velenje and the main port city of Koper, about 300 people gathered in squares that still bear Tito’s name. About 700 gathered in the western town of Nova Gorica, and a few hundred in Novo Mesto near the border with Croatia. In Trbovlje, about 300 gathered in an amphitheater that was once a cemetery to symbolically bury the country during a candle-lit funeral. (Crowd estimates from TV Slovenia.)
More demonstrations are being organized for Monday, again in Ljubljana and Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, where violence also marred a demonstration last Monday. Fifteen photos are below, all taken well before the morons stole the headlines.