STA, 3 July 2020 - Police security was beefed in the centre of Ljubljana on Friday as the anti-government protests held every week in the Slovenian capital were joined by a smaller counter-protest of government supporters.
Taking to the streets for the 11th consecutive Friday, hundreds of demonstrators remounted their bicycles to voice their opposition to the government, as well as against fascism and nationalism.
Even before the protest, a smaller group of a few dozen government supporters clad in yellow vests gathered in Prešeren Square carrying banners saying Anarchists and Left Fascists and Antifa=Terror, as well as a picture of a swastika and the red star with the equals sign between them.
Zbor podpornikov vlade na Prešernovem trgu: pic.twitter.com/ygBZOOhtPd— Delo (@Delo) July 3, 2020
The group first appeared among the anti-government crowd at the alternative Statehood Day Ceremony held on 24 June shortly before the official state ceremony, announcing they would stage counter protests for each anti-government rally.
They told the media their intention was to "prevent a coup", thwart attempts to "bring down the government by means of show trials", and prevent "falling back in totalitarianism".
The yellow vests also moved to the square in front of the parliament building and then filed past the headquarters of RTV Slovenija, criticising the public broadcaster and calling for it to be scrapped.
The yellow vests' rally had been "condemned in the strongest terms" by almost 100 organisations and initiatives supporting the anti-government protests.
In a press release issued before the events, they said the yellow vests were in fact members of neo-Nazi groups, their links to the ruling Democratic Party (SDS) being "well documented, their discourse virtually identical to the discourse of the political".
They argued that "neo-Nazi gangs have come to the defence of the ruling coalition with the intention to provoke and escalate" the situation.
Concern was raised after pictures emerged from the 24 June protest showing one of the yellow vests performing a Nazi salute, and online posts saying several yellow vests were Blood&Honour members.
The police tightened security, telling the STA beforehand they had zero tolerance of all forms of displays of hatred, intolerance or violence and were taking action targeting deviant conduct.
Despite some tension, the protests passed off without a major confrontation, as did a similar protest and counter-protest in Maribor, Slovenia's second city.
Already in the morning, some of the anti-government protesters had been received by President Borut Pahor for what his office said was an "exchange of opinions and views, which differed on some points".
Pahor appealed for dialogue, which he said should be sought even when it appeared to have been exhausted.
One of the protesters who took part in the meeting, Tjaša Prošek told the STA that they had posed concrete questions but failed to get any answers. Pahor would also not respond to their invitation to address the crowed rallying every Friday.
Part of protesters and some of the groups involved said the protesters who attended the meeting with Pahor did not represent them.
"Those representatives certainly do not represent the whole protest movement. We hope their response has to do solely with political naivety and adventurism," several groups said in a press release.
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