12 arrested during a protest against the amendments to the Forestry Act

Twelve people were arrested this evening for disobeying police orders during a flash mob protest against the amendments to the Forestry Act, passed at second reading in Parliament earlier today.

Traffic at Orlov Most was blocked for nearly an hour after 8 p.m. when protesters sat down at the intersection.

According to the news websites, the police, who was waiting for the protesters an hour ahead of the scheduled, but unauthorised protest, tried do disperse them several times – first with officers on motorcycles and then with mounted police.

Eyewitnesses who left early said that the protest was overall peaceful – the protesters, mostly young people and teenagers, were blowing whistles, carrying slogans and chanting and singing. A considerable number of the slogans said “Please, excuse us for the inconvenience, but we’re trying to save what’s left of Bulgaria”.

Other witnesses, one of them briefly arrested for “failing to comply with the traffic signals” and then released “because there is no room in the truck”, said that the police was quite heavy-handed at times and was dragging people away from the intersection and was throwing bicycles around.

Around 9.30 p.m. the protesters at Orlov Most were dispersed, but the police presence was still considerable. According to the news websites and some witnesses, the protesters moved on to another central intersection – Popa.

Various witnesses and news sites give different number of protesters, varying between 400 and 1000.

The flash mob was organised in the social networks under the slogan “Let’s take away Boiko’s birthday present”, referring to Prime Minister’s Boiko Borissov’s birthday.

The protesters are against the amendments to the Forestry Act, which facilitate the construction of ski pistes and the supporting infrastructure, without changing the purpose of the land and without paying the fees for this. Thus, practically, a green light is given to the construction of new pistes and ski lifts in Vitosha, which is a natural park and is under a certain level of protection. The protesters dubbed the amendment “The Vitosha Ski” amendment, after this winter’s decision of Vitosha Ski to shut down the pistes and lifts in Vitosha with the claim that the current law doesn’t let them do any repairs on the installations. Allegedly, this was done with the sole purpose of blackmailing the authorities to amend the law so Vitosha Ski can carry out their plans to expand the existing pistes and infrastructure on Vitosha.

The environmentalists fear that the new amendment will let the investors go unchecked in destroying forests and ecosystems and have organised at least 10 protests since the new amendments were drafted and started being discussed in early winter.

The right-of-centre parliamentary opposition, The Blue Coalition, called upon President Rossen Plevneliev to veto the amendments. He said, quoted by the BNT public broadcaster, that the matter will be discussed before making a final decision on it.



Photo 1: Occupy Bulgaria
Photo 2: Violeta Sapundjieva
Photo 3: Hristina Dimitrova




Hristina Dimitrova

Hristina Dimitrova has more than a decade of journalistic experience and is a senior editor at The Sofia Globe; previously she has worked in both online and print media, having started her career at The Sofia Echo.