Sofia city council passed a motion on November 21, condemning the police blockades in the centre of the city, set up to restrict public access to a number of public buildings in response to the ongoing anti-government protests, as against the law.
The motion passed with 43 votes in favour, but city councillors from the Bulgarian Socialist Party – one of the two parties in the ruling axis – refused to participate in the vote.
“The unprecedented concentration of police forces and the blocking of extensive public space is not only against Bulgarian law, but also breaches universal human rights, namely the right of free movement,” the motion read.
The motion acknowledged that police had to maintain public safety, but said that extensive security zones set up by police enclosures around buildings housing state institutions breached the existing laws.
Under Bulgaria’s law on public gatherings, police is restricted to set up security enclosures at 20m around public buildings at most. Expanding them further requires the consent of the mayor of Sofia, something that the Interior Ministry did not even ask before setting up the extensive area around the Parliament building.
The ministry effectively conceded that it was in breach of the law, saying that the police was using its “own judgment” in providing security for the Parliament, Government and Presidency buildings.
The city hall’s declaration comes a day after Sofia became the fulcrum of five different rallies – some directed against the government headed by Plamen Oresharski, some in support – that saw police lines create large security areas throughout the city and, on several occasions, had police prevent anti-government protesters from advancing, even though they were several blocks’ distance from Parliament.
(Police lines preventing anti-government protesters from advancing during a rally on November 10. Photo: protestnamreja/facebook)