STA, 26 June 2020 - Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Ljubljana on Friday evening in what have become traditional Friday rallies. They packed Prešeren Square where they protested over police erecting fences and put chains around the monument of Slovenian leading poet France Prešeren in a symbolic move to warn about the cultural crisis.
Several thousand then toured the capital, but kept away from Republic Square even though the venue, otherwise a popular place for assemblies and rallies, was not fenced off this evening as it was previous Friday, a government decision that has raised a lot of dust.
They protested over the police putting up fences in the capital, a city that has a collective memory of the Fascists fencing it off entirely with a barbed wire to suppress any resistance movement during the Second World War.
On Wednesday, on the eve of Statehood Day, fences were erected across the centre of Ljubljana to fence off the official state ceremony.Images from Wednesday
Moreover, apart from last Friday when Republic Square was completely fenced off, during a few previous Friday anti-government rallies, the square was partly closed off.
The protesters see all that as the police encroaching upon their right to assembly. Their posters and banners as well as speeches said that no fence would stop them.
On their route, they passed the Presidential Palace, most on foot, some also on bicycles, with many voicing their disapproval of President Borut Pahor.
They walked around an occupied Ljubljana, as they said, and wrapped up the rally in Congress Square where the state ceremony was held and in nearby Zvezda Park, holding up posters proclaiming it Republic Square.
"Every Friday when thousands of people take to the streets, peacefully, in a dignified manner, we win. They tried to fence us off and restrict assembling. They failed and they will fail," said theatre director Jaša Jenull, one of the informal organisers of the Friday rallies.
Putting Prešeren symbolically in chains was a warning about the cultural crisis in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, but also a protest gesture over restricting assembling.
Furthermore, the spot around the monument was the place where pro-government protesters in yellow vests gathered to oppose the Statehood Day alternative ceremony on Wednesday evening. There was some tension and banners saying Anarchists are Left-Wing Fascists were displayed by a few dozens in yellow vests.
Some 7,000 people gathered in the heart of Ljubljana to protest against the government on that day, according to police estimates.
Today, prior to the rally, a group of protesters also stopped by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) headquarters where they expressed their opposition to the entire political aisle, saying they had enough of "the left, the right and the quasi-centre politicians who are not working for the good of the nation", read social media posts.
Meanwhile, the number of police officers monitoring the protest seemed to be lower this Friday. The Ljubljana Police Administration told the STA that it could not disclose the exact figure, citing tactical reasons.
The police warned the protesters about anti-Covid-19 restrictions and notified the relevant authorities of any violations today as it had been doing during the previous Friday rallies, it added.
Apart from Ljubljana, anti-government protests were also held in a number of other Slovenian cities, including Maribor and Celje.
In Maribor, Ivan Gale, the whistleblower from the Agency for Commodity Reserves who alleged wrongdoing in the purchases of masks and further sparked the rallies, addressed the protesters.