STA, 27 April 2020 - While lockdown measures remain in force, some Slovenians have started hitting the streets to protest against the government and the continuation of quarantine, with a few hundred people gathering in Ljubljana on Monday, several hundred in Maribor and smaller rallies held in several other cities.
The protests were initiated by a Facebook group called Resistance against the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, which calls for the situation in the country to be normalised and for Prime Minister Janez Janša to resign.
Around 150 people gathered in the square in front of Parliament House in Ljubljana at noon, and the number of protesters roughly doubled when newcomers lifted a fence set up by the police and joined the rally.
Several media reports say that there were no incidents or conflicts, with the police only warning the protesters to keep a safe distance among themselves.
One of the protesters called for national unity and "against plundering by both left and right" and for the "robbery of taxpayer money" to end, drawing some applause from the crowd.
Some of the signs called for Janša's resignation, while some individuals decided to hold impromptu speeches to call against the misuse of public money and for the measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic to be lifted.
A speech was delivered by Ladislav Troha, a former army officer who has become a major proponent of conspiracy theories online and has been on the fringe of many protests over the past decade and more.
Some of the protesters invoked widely circulated conspiracy theories saying they were rebelling against the deployment of 5G telecommunications technology and government plans to implant chips into them, according to videos circulated on social media.
Joining the call for protests were Facebook users in Nova Gorica, Ptuj, Trbovlje and Maribor. In Slovenia's second largest city, around 1,000 people gathered for a peaceful walk through the city streets, according to local media reports. Police say the number of protestors was much lower, just 100.
In some towns, people also carried signs in support of Ivan Gale, the whistleblower from the Commodity Reserves Agency who has revealed for national television political pressures in the procurement of personal protective equipment.
A Facebook page has been created in support for Gale, so far attracting some 54,000 members. Its moderators said yesterday that they had nothing to do with today's protests and disavowed the events.
Ljubljana police said there were roughly 200 people at the rally in Ljubljana, whose organisers registered the event on Friday but did not get permission due to the lockdown restrictions.
Maribor police said they had warned protestors they were violating the restrictions on movement and gathering. Reports against 19 persons were submitted to the Health Inspectorate, which controls quarantine compliance.
Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said on Twitter that police in Ljubljana and Maribor had IDd a large number of protestors, who will be fined. "They will also file criminal complaints against the organisers and participants, this constitutes the crime of hazard to health," he said.
Hojs also expects the police will ID additional participants with the help of published photographs and video. "The majority of the citizens are concerned about health and comply with the decrees," he said.
Monday's protests are the latest in a series of anti-government manifestations that started, mostly on social media, soon after the country went into lockdown.
A protest against restrictions of freedom during the epidemic was held on Friday as dozens of cyclists roamed the centre of Ljubljana, ringing bells, whistling and carrying slogans.
The protest, which was organised by a Facebook group which had previously been calling for protests from balconies and windows, also called against giving the army police powers to patrol the border and against attacks on journalists.