Ljubljana – Senior politicians and parliamentary parties have called for dialogue as they condemned yesterday’s rioting after a peaceful rally against the Covid pass mandate turned violent. PM Janez Janša has said the government will not yield to any pressure. “We’ll insist on the measures to protect health and people’s lives,” he said last evening.
“Street violence has never led to anything good,” Janša said in a tweet, adding the police have the duty to act by law in such situation, while it is time for the prosecution and courts to stop tolerating threats and violence.
Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič has also strongly condemned the vandalism, but urged politicians not to abuse it to square accounts.
“I urge protesters to protest peacefully and refrain from violence in the future, and I urge politicians not to abuse this incident to square accounts,” he tweeted last evening.
A dozen windows on the Parliament House were broken as some of the protesters started throwing bottles, rocks and lit torches at police and the building.
In today’s statement Zorčič said “we are additionally shocked because the Parliament House is important not only culturally but also as a symbol of democracy”.
President Borut Pahor urged dialogue, stressing that the violence should not be met with understanding or approval, while it should also not leave anyone indifferent.
“Yes to dialogue and rallies, no to violence. We must be totally united in this view because violence is a threat to all of us,” he said in today’s written statement.
Noting differing views on the coronavirus measures, Pahor said that “all different views can be freely expressed only in a decent and peaceful manner.”
He believes efforts should be made not to deepen the existing differences, while he understands the restrictions brought about by the virus have made everyone tried and some have lost patience, which however does not justify violence.
Harsh condemnation also come from parliamentary parties, which all stressed that dissatisfaction must be expressed in a non-violent, democratic manner.
Mojca Škrinjar, an MP for the ruling Democrats (SDS), labelled the violence “unacceptable” adding there were “other ways to express the people’s will”.
“Yesterday was a very hard day which brought an attack on democracy, public heath and property,” she said, adding the work of the MPs who had been in parliament during the rally had been hindered.
The junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) expressed “dissatisfaction with the violence Ljubljana witnessed yesterday”.
Deputy group leader Gregor Perič would like to live in a country where people knew how to engage in dialogue and express dissatisfaction without threatening anyone.
The SMC is aware of the gravity of the situation during the epidemic, but thinks there is no better solution than vaccination and testing.
While Perič did not wish to speculate who was behind the violence, he finds it key for politics to look for solutions, not culprits.
The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) believes that people have been dissatisfied for a long time, which the government has contributed to with poor communication.
Its leader and MP Marjan Šarec thus urged an early election so that people “can tell what they think and don’t have to go to protests”.
“We cannot agree with violence, but it’s true that we are all eagerly awaiting elections,” Šarec said during a visit to Celje.
Matjaž Han, deputy group leader of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), said he rejected hooligans who abused peaceful rallies to damage people and property.
He declined to comment on Interior Minister Aleš Hojs’s tweet which said “offshoots” of left parties – the SD and the Left – were responsible for the riots.
Han said he would not comment on the statements of “politicians whose actions worsen the already bad situation in the country”.
However, the Left’s leader Luka Mesec is worried not only about the dissatisfaction in society which turned into violence but also about “the government’s reaction, which dismissed in its signature style everything and blamed the rioting on opposition parties”.
While stressing he was in favour of vaccination, he also partly agreed with the protesters, saying the government had “enforced the strict Covid pass rule overnight without reflection”.
“People who decide to get vaccinated today will meet the PCT requirement only in a few weeks’ time. And testing, which is not free, will mostly affect the poor.”
Turning to Hojs’s statement, he said the protesters were neither leftist nor rightist, but gathered to oppose the PCT rule. He said blaming the left “is a well-known tactics of authoritarians”.
The coalition New Slovenia’s (NSi) Jožef Horvat expressed opposition to “making fun of a million of vaccinated Slovenians” at Wednesday’s violent rally.
The NSi deputy group leader is aware the PCT requirement has pushed all people who are fed up with the coronavirus measures into a bad mood.
“We regret and strongly condemn the violent protest, destruction of common property and attacks on the Slovenian police,” said Horvat.
A very similar view was expressed by the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), whose secretary general Jernej Pavlič hopes the police will find the perpetrators.
He said media footage shows the rally was peaceful until “masked people with cubes came out of some bars”. He drew a parallel with anti-government protests in 2012, not wishing to speculate who benefited from such incidents.
The Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) said there should be no place in society for intolerance, vandalism and hate speech. It said yesterday’s rally “was an attempt by individuals to bring divisions and distrust among people during one of the biggest health crises”.
The party praised police officers for “doing an excellent job”, and it is convinced that the organisers of the violent rally will be brought to justice.
The city of Ljubljana said the vandalism had resulted in an estimated damage of EUR 7,000 on damaged granite cubes and other street infrastructure. The final damage is yet to be determined.