Pro-, Anti-Janša Protesters Gather in Prešeren Square for Alternative Statehood Day Ceremony

By , 25 Jun 2020, 11:30 AM Politics
Anti-anti-fascist yellow vests face the police in Prešeren Square Anti-anti-fascist yellow vests face the police in Prešeren Square stariha, Twitter

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STA, 24 June 2020 - Several thousand people packed Prešeren Square in the heart of Ljubljana to state their opposition to the policies of the Janez Janša government on the eve of Statehood Day just a couple of hours before the official state ceremony on the occasion was due to begin in Congress Square, a stone's throw away.

The event was being monitored closely by police and there was some tension as a few dozen counter-protesters in yellow vests arrived in the square, carrying banners saying Anarchists are Left Fascists.

The smaller group lined up in front of the monument to poet France Prešeren in the centre of the square, inviting boos and shouts "troublemakers" from the crowd turning up for the alternative ceremony, with the programme continuing from the stairs leading up to the church on the opposite side of the square.

The programme featured a women's choir signing The Internationale, the left-wing anthem, and speeches calling for a better world and against fascism, exclusions and restrictions on NGOs.

Those taking to the stage included culture workers, who called for a boycott of the state ceremony, arguing that the Slovenian population's referendum decision to break away from Yugoslavia had been abused to restore outdated capitalism, plunder social property, erase a part of the population and establish a political class of untouchables and their sidekicks.

The group organising today's alternative ceremony had been holding weekly protests in front of the Ministry of Culture over what it said was the ministry's lack of response to the crisis in the culture sector.

The group, much like protesters that have been turning up for demonstrations on bicycles or on foot for several Fridays, also criticised "desire for absolute power", insults and exclusion which they attributed to the current government and in particular PM Janša.

The event was also addressed by young climate activists and other environmental activists. It was attended by artists, writers, performers and some opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who told reporters he came to support people who turned up because they loved their country but disagreed with the government's actions.

Among those present was also Ivan Gale, the whistleblower from the Agency for Commodity Reserves who alleged wrongdoing in the purchases of masks, and a flag carrying member of the association fostering the heritage of the Partisan WWII resistance.

Flag-bearers had been barred from the state ceremony, ostensibly because of the coronavirus, which is why those turned up for a ceremony in Trzin, which was addressed by Ladislav Lipič, the head of the association of the 1991 war of Slovenian veterans.

The participants in the alternative Ljubljana ceremony later walked to the Presidential Palace and government headquarters, where they laid flowers and lit candles in tribute of the erased, before ending the protest in the French Revolution Square.

The streets around Congress Square where the state ceremony started at shortly after 9pm were cordoned off. Šarec commented that the whole city was being fenced in and that there had been more railings erected every week, criticising police acting against some participants in the weekly Friday protests.

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