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[Three Ladies and the Wrong Direction of the Coalition] The Hooligans Have Injured as Many as 43 Police Officers in Two Years

Can you imagine a situation where violent protests against the left-wing government would be organised by the right-wing political pole with its supporters and sympathisers? And at the same time, they would promise the perpetrators amnesty and an end to the unfinished proceedings against them when the right-wing is in power? Such actions would lead to anarchy or, in an extreme scenario, even something worse. It is imperative that the current coalition starts respecting the rule of law, which they declaratively swear by, but clearly do not follow in practice. According to the rule of law, everyone must be held accountable and sanctioned or acquitted for misdemeanours and crimes before the courts, and nowhere else.

Let’s continue with the facts.

The use of a water cannon
As a rule, the police use water cannons very rarely – usually, when there is a massive violation of public order and peace cannot be established by any other means. The warnings of some that the water cannon was bought during the time when I was Minister of the Interior, and then only used during the third Janša government, are ridiculous. This is, of course, not true. In 2012, we had and used a decades-old cannon water cannon that broke down practically every few kilometres. We did not have a new one, nor did I order one. The new water cannon was purchased by the government of Miro Cerar. The right-wing political pole did not problematise this purchase, as we knew that the police needed a new water cannon. However, the situation would certainly be different if the water cannon had actually been purchased during my time at the ministry. I did not record how many times the water cannon was used during past violent protests. As far as I remember, it was used when a crowd of 20,000 people was walking along Celovška street in the direction of the ring road, and perhaps on some other occasion as well. However, there has been a lot of talk about how it was used illegally and against innocent people, which is, of course, absurd. If you walk in the middle of Celovška street in Ljubljana and thus illegally close down traffic and even intend to do so on the motorway, you are not an innocent citizen.

Police tactics changed after the violent protests of 2012
The violent protests that happened in 2012 were thoroughly analysed by the police, and they identified a fairly high number of injured police officers and thugs, so they changed their tactics slightly, towards the use of less classic coercive means and more use of means that caused neither police injuries, nor injuries of the violent protesters. This is where the water cannon and tear gas come into play. In 2012, 31 hooligans and 115 police officers were injured in the protests. This was also confirmed by official data.

In the years 2020-2022, with a significantly higher number of protests and protesters, 43 police officers and five protesters were injured, of which one, a journalist, was actually injured by another protester, and not a police officer. This situation in no way allows criticism of the police, not even in the sense of its alleged “brutality and violence.” Data on the use of water cannons and gas resources deserve praise rather than criticism, as they have significantly contributed to fewer injuries to police officers, as well as protesters.

But our analysis would not be complete without also focusing on the violent protests and police actions that happened on the 5th of October 2022. Nowadays, the left-wing political pole likes to talk about how police officers used excessive amounts of tear gas in Ljubljana that day, how they attacked innocent people and how they allegedly fired all the gas charges that they had.

But let’s backtrack for a moment and follow the truth. The day in question was not an ordinary day, especially not for the police. On the day in question, representatives of all countries of the European Union, the entire leadership of the EU, as well as leaders of some other countries gathered in Brdo near Kranj and Ljubljana. From a security standpoint, such an event is considered a high security risk event for the police, and the police must use all legally prescribed measures to ensure the safety of the protected persons, which is what these representatives are. At that time, the police also heard threats that the violent protesters would forcibly block Brdo near Kranj, using tractors and trucks, in order to prevent the meeting of the foreign leaders.

Can you imagine if the police assessed that they were not able to ensure the safety of participants and cancelled the whole event, can you imagine a situation where the safety of one or more protected persons would be endangered, let alone if one of these persons was injured or even died? Inconceivable. The whole world would report on this, and a negative image of our country and the police would quickly spread around the world. I can’t even imagine something like that actually happening.

However, the police did their job more than perfectly, preventing any endangerment of the protected persons – the only incident that happened was one of the drivers driving into the crowd, which blocked the free passage of his vehicle, which meant that the driver had to reverse to take another route. And that is what the violent protesters, whom the left-wing coalition likes to call “innocent,” which they definitely are not, did that day. It is an indisputable fact that this was not a gathering of peaceful people, but rather a gathering of hooligans who organised an unreported violent protest. The police recorded 13 violations of damaging objects. It also dealt with five criminal offences of assault of an official, and one criminal offence of obstruction of official duty, participation in a group which committed a criminal offence of obstructing official duty, and the criminal offence of inciting resistance. So much for the excessive use of tear gas on peaceful and innocent people.

After these protests, police officers were criticised and threatened with investigations, while the right thing to do would have been to praise them for a job well done and for ensuring a peaceful meeting of the most important representatives of the EU Member States and other foreign countries. Well, we heard this praise in Brussels, but not in Ljubljana.

Concluding remarks
In conclusion, we should ask ourselves why the coalition is acting this way towards the police and the inspection services. However, so far, the inspection services have not been under such severe attack. But the coalition claims that it wants to depoliticise the police, as if it were still under the influence of the former right-wing government. However, when the left-wing political option appoints its people to the top of the police, as well as other important positions, the police will finally be “depoliticised.” Of course not. It will be politicised, but with staff the current coalition likes, which means that this is not actually the depoliticisation of the police.

It should become perfectly normal for both sides of the political spectrum to put the people at the top of the police that the political option in power believes will do their jobs well. That is all. No one should be allowed to threaten police officers who do their work legally and responsibly with various investigations and procedures (which is what is happening now), as this only demotivates the officers who are doing fair and lawful work.

The coalition’s actions in this regard, however, have much more important, vile and reprehensible intentions. The coalition has promised amnesty for the already-paid fines and the halting of proceedings related to the protests, as well as the exemption from paying the costs of police protection at the unreported protests. As already stated, this is vile and reprehensible, as it sends a clear message to the violent protesters. That is, in the time of the right-wing governments, you can be violent, break the law and do everything you can to change power, and when the leftists come to power, you will be acquitted. This is inadmissible.

And to conclude, let’s turn things upside down, politically speaking, and imagine a different situation that will not actually happen because we right-wingers are not violent, and we actually respect the law. Can you imagine a situation in which the violent protests against the left-wing government would be organised by the right-wing political pole with its supporters and sympathisers? And can you imagine if the right-wing leaders promised amnesty to the perpetrators and an end to the unfinished proceedings against them when they got to power? Doing so would lead to anarchy or, in the most extreme case, even something worse.

It is absolutely imperative that the current authorities, first and foremost, start respecting the rule of law, which they declaratively swear by, but clearly do not follow in practice. According to the rule of law, everyone must be held accountable and sanctioned or acquitted for misdemeanours and crimes before the courts, and nowhere else.

Dr Vinko Gorenak

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