Ljubljana – Several dozen riot police entered the AKC Metelkova alternative culture centre on Monday evening, ostensibly to check whether clubs are closed, a move that prompted protests by the proprietors of Metelkova clubs and the artists and craftsmen who have studios there.
The officers entered the Metelkova compound after policing a protest at the nearby Rog centre, which has recently been vacated and partially demolished, according to media reports.
The collective body running AKC Metelkova issued a press release Tuesday condemning the action by the “fully armed riot police.”
They said around 40 “robocops, accompanied by officers in uniform, flooded the Metelkova grounds, tried to enter the clubs and other premises, and intimidated passers-by.”
The police did not provide a reason for their presence beyond saying they were there because a rally had finished, “which they later changed into a story about ‘customary control’ of bars.”
The Metelkova collective described this as “inadmissible intimidation and a forecast of violence”.
The Ljubljana Police Department told the STA later today that the force policed two protests in central Ljubljana on Monday – a rally scheduled for noon in Republic Square and another one at 5pm that started in Metelkova.
Since the latter had not been registered and there had been information warning of possible violation of the public order, police presence was boosted and riot police dispatched to ensure law and order was maintained, the press release reads.
The police dismissed allegations of intimidation attempts, which circulated in media and on social media, highlighting that police officers were merely professionally and within their powers doing their job.
The appearance of riot police triggered social media uproar yesterday evening, raising concerns that after the demolition of Rog, AKC Metelkova as the only remaining organised alternative culture centre in the capital was being targeted.
It came just days after a far-right group that call themselves Yellow Vests, which support the government, took a photo at AKC Metelkova with the banner “Let’s Demolish Metelkova Too”.
AKC Metelkova said the group “no longer conceals their neonazi ideology, tattoos, symbols and greetings” since they are “well aware that the ruling structures provide them with safety and legitimacy for the most abhorrent political ideas”.
The members of the group fled from the Metelkova grounds before the arrival of the police, the press release added.
Responding to a query by the STA, the Ljubljana city municipality said that AKC Metelkova was a protected alternative culture and subculture venue and “one of the city’s treasures where we nurture and respect diversity and co-exist”.
The city condemned the presence of “so-called Yellow Vests, neonazi groups or any other violent groups” in Metelkova, saying that such incidents attempted to revive nazi ideology, the greatest evil of the 20th century, and did not have a place in the capital.
The municipality also said that drawing parallels between Yellow Vests’ actions in Metelkova and the planned Rog renovation was inappropriate as the centre was not demolished in the name of hate but to make it accessible for everyone.
The opposition Left also responded to the developments by describing Monday’s arrival of the riot police to the Metelkova grounds “without any reason or serious cause” as another scene in the series of displays of the police strength, referring to cordoning off Republic Square last year ahead of anti-government protests and Ljubljana centre during the 2020 Statehood Day ceremony.
“Police officers carrying automatic weapons without any reason” in Metelkova, “just another part of the city”, should raise all the red flags, thinks Left leader Luka Mesec, who blames the Interior Ministry for this.
The Left intends to request an emergency session of the parliamentary Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission as the party believes the developments are moving the country from a place of the democratic order to the reign of terror.
Over the years AKC Metelkova has frequently been a target of hate crime, in particular its two gay and lesbian clubs.