The “Lukov March” planned for Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on February 14 2015 will go ahead, organisers said, in spite of the ban on the torchlight procession announced by Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova.
The ban was imposed on the advice of the Interior Ministry, State Agency for National Security and city police, who said that the march put public order at risk.
The “Lukov March”, held in Sofia annually since 2003, honours General Hristo Lukov, leader of a 1930s ultra-nationalist organisation that detractors condemn as a pro-Nazi and anti-Semite. Lukov was assassinated by communists on February 13 1943.
Ahead of the announcement of the ban by Sofia municipality, there had been several calls for the march to be forbidden, from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Shalom Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria, the Israeli embassy and from Russia’s foreign ministry.
On February 13, the United States embassy in Sofia added its voice.
“The US embassy in Bulgaria notes with concern the Lukov march reportedly scheduled for February 14 in Sofia. While we fully support the principle of free speech, democratic freedom should not be used to spread intolerance, xenophobia or anti-Semitism,” a statement said.
“The US embassy stands with the Bulgarian leaders and citizens who have condemned xenophobia, hate speech and all forms of intolerance and joins them in urging respect for the human rights that are fundamental to democratic societies,” the embassy said.
Bulgarian news website Topnovini.bg reported on February 13 that the organisers had said that the march would go ahead – as it had done in 2014 even though the municipality banned that march too.
The “deputy commandant” of the Lukov March, Tsvetelin Pankov, was quoted as saying that no formal order banning the march had been received and it would go ahead as planned, starting at 5.30pm.
“We have the legal right to gather freely and to honour the memory of a Bulgarian hero,” Pankov said.
He said that the organisers had taken into account “possible provocations by the police”. There would be strict control by the organisers, with provisions for internal security.
“If the participants in the march are provoked by the police, they are obliged to defend themselves as they see fit,” Pankov was quoted as saying.