Sofia University cancels classes on October 28 because of anti-government ‘Occupy’ protest
Sofia University management have cancelled classes on October 28 and will hold a special meeting to discuss the anti-government “Occupy” protest which entered its fourth day on October 26 and which protesters say will continue until the current Bulgarian Socialist Party government resigns to make way for early parliamentary elections.
University management held talks with protest participants on October 26. The protest involves a reported 80 to 100 students.
The Sofia University protest began on October 23 when students disrupted a guest lecture by Constitutional Court head Dimitar Tokushev, a response to the court’s ruling that Delyan Peevski, whose appointment as head of the State Agency for National Security sparked a continuing series of anti-government protests, could retain his seat as an MP. The outcome of the Constitutional Court process, in which the opposition in Parliament had argued that Peevski’s short-lived tenure as head of SANS rendered him ineligible to be an MP, made the court a target of criticism that it had ignored established legal precedent in order to curry favour with the current government.
Initially, the protest occupation of the lecture hall had been intended to end on October 25, but participants said that they intended to continue until the government resigned and fresh elections were announced, while the scope of the protest expanded to include the interior of the university buildings.
At the university, entrance doors were locked, with participants admitting only those with student cards. Protesters agreed to allow exams scheduled for October 26 to go ahead.
After the meeting on October 26 between management and protesters, Sofia University issued a statement saying that the management “understands the actions of students who have occupied the Rector’s building as a reaction to the lack of morality in politics, lack of concern for the future of young people and the country and the lack of respect for their positions”.
The university management said that it believed that young people had the right to express their stance on issues in society “even at the cost of civil disobedience – a form of protest since the Middle Ages and approved by thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau”.
At the same time, the protest was preventing the university carrying out its core function of educational and scientific activity and violating the rights of students who did not want the learning process interrupted, the university management said.
The academic council would meet on October 28 at 2pm to discuss the situation and classes would not be held that day “to avoid administrative chaos”.
The university called for understanding and patience from all students, faculty and staff, whether or not they supported the protests, as well as all of Bulgarian society, equally torn by the same moral dilemmas.
University student Boris Rangelov told reporters on October 26 that there would no lectures or any other kind of classes at Sofia University until the occupation was over.
In a Facebook post on October 26, protesting students called for volunteers among fellow students to replace those who had become tired in the past few days.
A participant in protest said that the previous night had been “euphoric, we were all in high spirits, because we know that this is something real and moral for us”.
About 100 academics have signed a statement of support for the protesters. The anti-government “Occupy” protest at Sofia University also has been hailed by the Protest Network which emerged out of the protests that began after the Peevski appointment on June 14.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party, with whose mandate the current government was formed after the May elections, said that while it did not deny the democratic right to protest and to find ways to state a position, the chaining of the doors of the Rector’s building was a “violation of democratic rights”.
Vanya Dobreva, the socialist MP who heads Parliament’s committee on education and science, said: “It seems to me to be a violation of democratic rights for 100 people to prevent the other 25 000 taking part in the learning process”.
* On October 25, the participants in the student protest adopted a declaration. This is the text, as posted on anti-government website Noresharski.com:
From the students occupying SU “St. Kliment Ohridski” on October 25, 2013
To the Dean the University
Ladies and gentlemen, teachers and administrators at Alma mater,
Dear colleagues – graduate students and students,
Dear citizens of Bulgaria.
We are recognizing our historic responsibility to the Bulgarian citizens, which desire restoration of democracy and rule of law in the Republic.
We foresee the inevitable negative effects in the country if the current government completes its full mandate.
We are angered by the systemic violations of constitutional order in the country by the current government led by Plamen Oresharski.
We are convinced that the integrity and transparency of the management processes is a condition without, which there can not be real order in the country.
Our ultimate goal is Bulgaria to become a country with governance, grounded in moral values rather than personal benefits.
As students and citizens of Bulgaria we have every right to a peaceful and legal protest at the University, which is a place of values and not just lectures.
We have the support of our professors and the outraged citizens protesting for more than four months against a government, which has gone in moral collapse.
We the students of Sofia University believe in our fair will to change the Bulgarian civil society.
We, the students of University of Sofia, have introduced an open-ended and effective occupation.
We stand with the following objectives:
– 1. Immediate resignation of the current government ld by Plamen Oresharski;
– 2. As quickly as possible scheduling of new parliamentary elections;
– 3. intolerance of the public body to widespread criminal lawlessness in the highest levels of government;
– 4. Bulgaria to become a civilized rule of law;
– 5. and the promotion of justice and knowledge as a high social values.
272 lecture hall,
October 25 2013”
(Photos: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)