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Thursday, June 30, 2022

[JOŽE BIŠČAK, editorial comment] My view on Friday’s police removal of members of the yellow jackets from Prešeren Square: The police had two perfectly acceptable options, unfortunately they decided on the third – the worst and wrong

By: Jože Biščak

For the last 3 days, there have been a series of comments and different views on Friday’s conduct by the police, which removed the so-called yellow jackets from Prešeren Square because their presence supposedly provoked anti-government protesters of the “people’s assembly” at the so-called alternative celebrations. Here is my view on the matter.

If I understand correctly and the information is correct, none of the groups (self-proclaimed “protest people’s assembly” and so-called yellow jackets) reported their arrival (rally or protest) to Prešeren Square in Ljubljana and applied for permission from the Ljubljana Administrative Unit. So both arrivals (gatherings) were illegal. But we have already got used to the fact that the Slovenian police do not chase people who come to the scene of the event, but monitor and protect the matter and remove only those who are violent. Nevertheless, anti-government protesters (along with MSM) describe the police’s actions as totalitarian and violent towards (illegal) protesters, and the current government as totalitarian (although it is not necessary to go far across the border to see how the police deal with illegal and unorganised rallies there, and it does not occur to anyone to label, for example, the Merkel government as totalitarian). We clarified this: both groups (Jenull’s “people’s assembly” and the so-called yellow jackets) were more than obviously organised, they targeted a specific place, disturbed the everyday life of citizens, and the UE Ljubljana did not issue a permit for their meeting.

So far so good, the problem arises because the police (or the one who commanded the unit guarding Prešeren Square) arbitrarily decided to remove one (“disorganised”) group, even though none of the groups were violent. If any showed a desire for violence, it was individuals of the “people’s assembly” who wanted to use force to rip out a banner from the hands of the so-called yellow jackets.

At that moment, the police ruled that there could be a physical confrontation between the two groups (Jaša Jenull even shouted that they would remove the so-called yellow jackets if the police did not), but what followed was wrong.

The police would do the right thing if they chose one of the following two options: (first), because both groups were there illegally, they would call on both of them to disperse, otherwise they would disperse them; (and secondly), they could physically place themselves between the two groups with a cordon, so that there would be no physical contact between them.

But the police decided on the third option and thus acted completely wrong: they removed only one group, and that is the so-called yellow jackets, it also arrested some of its members. It would also be wrong to disperse only the “people’s assembly” protesters. The police therefore de facto sided with Jaša Jenull and the anti-government “people’s assembly”. And because of that, someone has to answer or lose their job. The excuse that the so-called yellow jackets were provoking with their presence, in democratic and free countries, does not withstand as a serious and legal judgment.

Let us remember the 2014 Committee protests in front of the court. There, protesters registered each of their rallies in front of the court and had permission for it. On the other side of Tavčarjeva street (along the edge of Miklošičev park), anti-protesters gathered (illegally and un-reportedly, and provoked with shouts and banners). Police did not disperse them (they could have because their rally was not reported and they did not have the permission of the administrative unit), although there was a threat that there could be a physical showdown between protesters and anti-protesters. Only with their bodies and presence did it prevent physical contact between the groups.

That is what the police should have done last Friday. If both rallies (arrivals) were illegal and without the appropriate permission of the Ljubljana Administrative Unit and the police did not intend to prevent the rally, they should have physically place themselves between the groups with a cordon, regardless of how the groups verbally confronted or provoked each other. Because the so-called yellow jackets also have the (constitutional) right of free movement and speech anywhere and anytime just like the so-called protesters of the “people’s assembly” have it. With this serious mistake and abuse of position, the police clearly divided citizens into “first-class” and “second-class”, where the “first-class” people are allowed to organise rallies without reporting it to the administrative unit and getting permission, however, such behaviour (obviously the “second-class”) of the so-called yellow jackets is not allowed.

There are countless more examples: Palestinians walking on the road of Dunajska street (the police did not remove them, they “protected” them, even though they violated one hundred and one road traffic regulations); the gathering of the “people’s assembly” in the middle of the crossroads between Dunajska and Linhartova streets (the police did not remove them, they “protected” them, even though they violated one hundred and one road traffic regulations). And so on. The police have to decide whether to apply the same criteria to everyone, or to make it clear that for the “first-class” rules do not apply and for the “second-class” they do.

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