Protesters, police play cat-and-mouse in Sofia
Anti-government protesters seeking to blockade Parliament circled in a game of cat-and-mouse in central Sofia on November 15, with Plamen Oresharski in the role of the cheese.
Oresharski, prime minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, was in Parliament for Question Time but managed to elude the protesters, as the capital city again saw a strong police presence.
In the role of the cats, the police manoeuvred to try to obstruct protesters from reaching key points in the central part of the city, including the Council of Ministers building, but swift moves on the part of the protesters meant that this obstruction did not fully succeed.
With numbers difficult to estimate because protesters at times were in separate groups, the anti-government group at least exceeded 1000 people, arguably more.
Likening the protesters to mice should not imply cowardice. The students implied this themselves, with the traditional chant from protests of decades past, “we are students, we are strong”.
And while police have been, on orders from higher up, checking identity documents and even visiting the homes of regular protesters in recent days, some of the protesters armed themselves with official rules and regulations to challenge those police were not wearing the required identification tags.
One Bulgarian newspaper wittily noted that while the protesting students called themselves the Early Rising Students, the 7am visits by police meant that there were Early Rising Police too.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the planned rival mass rallies by opposition party GERB in Plovdiv (and the pro-government rally planned for Sofia by the BSP, which as of November 15 has the verbal backing of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms) the students underlined that they would not accept the support of political parties.
“They say that they are strong enough to fight for morality in politics themselves,” public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported from the student protest.
There has been some concern about the possible situation in Sofia on November 16, because apart from the BSP rally which the party is planning to bring thousands of people out in support of the government, a match between Bulgarian leading football teams CSKA and Levski also is planned for the capital.
Such matches tend to be accompanied by public drinking, fighting and other breaches of the peace. With the BSP rally planned to begin at noon and the CSKA-Levski match beginning at 3.15pm, both in and around the centre of Sofia, the already large deployment of police is likely to be challenged by the pressure.
* Later in the day, Oresharski said that people on the public payroll taking part in anti-government protests would be fired.
Media reports linked this statement to an earlier one attributed to the new leader of the BSP in Sofia, Kalyon Pargov, who reportedly told local structures to mobilise for participation in the November 16 those who were interested in getting public service jobs.