By: Nina Žoher / Nova24tv
On Wednesday, we once again witnessed an unregistered rally; however, it is well known that the president of the Resni.ca party (the Truth party), Zoran Stevanović, was actively inviting people on social media to join him at the protest. The protesters, some of them children, wreaked real havoc this time, as they took to the streets of Ljubljana shortly before 5 p.m., where they stopped traffic at a time when the vast majority of people were leaving work to go home. They even got to the ring road and blocked it for a while. A former police officer was critical of the actions of the police and expressed the belief that the protesters should be handled more sternly. “Protesting, causing traffic hazards and obstructing the people that work is not their right,” he pointed out. We also asked former Minister of the Interior, Dr Vinko Gorenak, to comment on the work of the police, and he said, among other things, that he would expect the police to act more decisively. “Video footage from Paris, London, Berlin, and elsewhere shows that the police of other countries are acting much more sternly in such cases.”
The unregistered rally started shortly before 1 p.m. on Republic Square, after which the protesters headed towards Šiška. The Ljubljana Police Administration announced that they had repeatedly called on the participants of the rally to not endanger traffic safety, and they also actively tried to stop them. “The people at the protest did not follow our orders, they pushed away police officers and violated public order, so the rally was disbanded. The police officers repeatedly called on participants to disperse.” As the protesters made their way to the ring road, police officers used coercive measures against the crowd to disperse it and establish public order. “In addition to gas, a water cannon was also used.” The crowd then began moving back in the direction of the centre of Ljubljana, to the building of the national media outlet RTV Slovenia, and then back towards Republic Square again.
There is a difference between reported and unreported protests
As a former Minister of the Interior, Dr Gorenak explained that people need to be aware of the fact that when it comes to police work, there is an important difference between registered and unregistered public rallies. Namely, at the registered public gatherings, the organiser is known, and he also ensured public order and peace – in cooperation with the police. “However, in the case of unreported public gatherings, the police must identify the organiser themselves (if they can) and take care of the safety of all participants at the same time. The number of participants is, of course, also important in such cases. With such a large number of people, the breaches of public order or even criminal offences happen in a scattered pattern, which makes it harder for the police to work, and it is also much more difficult for them to manage a situation like that,” he explained.
He expected the police to act more decisively
According to Gorenak, an important difference in the actions of the police happens at the moment when the police disperse a public rally like that due to violations and criminal offences – which is also stipulated in the law. “That also happened on Wednesday. And when that happens, the participants of the rally must strictly and immediately follow the orders of the police. Here, however, I would expect the police to act more decisively.” He pointed out that video footage from Paris, London, Berlin, and elsewhere shows that the police from the other countries are acting much more sternly in such cases. “I must also add that our police officers are subject to strict controls and severe sanctions in cases similar to what we saw on Wednesday if they do not act in accordance with the law,” he added.
Gorenak said that he could only assess Wednesday’s work of the police on the basis of publicly available data and photos published in the media because he had no other information about police procedures. “Judging by what was happening, I believe that the police officers recorded numerous violations of public order and peace, as well as lots of criminal offences. And therefore, I cannot ignore the role of the prosecution and the judiciary, which will hopefully sanction these violations appropriately,” he concluded.
Prime Minister critical of the work of the police leadership in Ljubljana
“Physical assaults, death threats against doctors, journalists and others, who are merely doing their jobs; obstruction of traffic and violations of the covid-19 measures – this is not a constitutional right to freedom of assembly,” Prime Minister Janez Janša was critical in his response to the events, adding that the Ljubljana police leadership is clearly incapable of acting in a preventive manner. He believes it is time for the Ministry of the Interior to take action.
A former police officer wrote in a post on Facebook that he believes that the protesters are nothing but a bunch of offenders and quarrelsome people of the left-wing political sphere, who should be handled more sternly. “They have no right to be on the ring road (the expressway),” he pointed out, adding that they should have been put in the police van. “And that is what I would do in the given situation in Ljubljana if I was still a police officer.” He emphasised that protesting and causing traffic hazards, and obstructing the working people is not the protesters’ right.
When asked if the police should have intervened sooner, Rojs said that they were forced to adapt the measures because the organiser did not want to cooperate with them
Boris Rojs, head of the public order and security department at the Uniformed Police Directorate, said on the show 24ur Zvečer (24 hours in the evening) that yesterday’s rally was initially peaceful, but then the alleged organisers invited the participants to the streets of the city, to the Presidential palace, along the Celovška Road all the way to the Northern Ljubljana ring road. During this time, Rojs said, some serious and mass violations of public order occurred. “So, we saw the protesters obstruct traffic; there were some fights, the disregard of the orders of authorised officials, meaning the police officers. The Public Assembly Act requires the police to disperse such a rally, in which serious and mass violations of public order occur, and to then also disperse the protesters who refuse to leave the protest. The police’s primary role was securing human lives. Accidents could have also happened on the ring road.”
When asked if the police should have intervened sooner, Rojs said that the protesters paralysed traffic and almost completely occupied the ring road. “The police always plan their actions according to the principle of proportionality, on the basis of information that they manage to gather themselves. Once again, the alleged organiser did not identify himself as the organiser in relation to the state authorities and also did not cooperate with the police – he did not share his programme, his plan, or tell us what his intentions were at the rally.” Therefore, according to Rojs, the police had to actively adapt the measures to what was happening on the ground. “When the worst violations took place, we also had to disband the rally.”
The Ljubljana Police Administration announced that police officers are currently collecting information about the incident, mainly in terms of detecting all criminal acts that occurred. “We learned that individuals also acted in an inappropriate manner towards journalists, which we strongly condemn. Journalists should not be the target of violence, as they are just doing their job. We urge them to report these actions, and the police will take all necessary measures to identify the perpetrators and take appropriate action against them.” The police emphasise that they will continue to collect information about the rally in the coming days, and if they detect any additional offences or criminal offences, they will act in accordance with the law.