Cancellation of 2020 Lukov March welcomed

The cancellation of the Lukov March that had been scheduled for the streets of Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia has been welcomed by the country’s Foreign Ministry, the United States embassy, Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the World Jewish Congress.

A decision by the Supreme Administrative Court upholding a ban by Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova resulted in the evening torchlight procession being cancelled.

For the first time in the last 17 years, the torch procession of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis known as Lukov March was prevented, as a result of the efforts of the Bulgarian authorities to fight antisemitism, intolerance and hate speech, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said.

“The strong and categorical rejection and condemnation of manifestations of extreme nationalists and xenophobes, such as Lukov March, is a principled stand of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria. Today Bulgaria needs no Lukov March, no dividing lines, no incitement to intolerance or hatred but unity, tolerance and empathy,” the statement said.

“We hope that now the participants and supporters of Lukov March have realized that such events are not only gross attempts on the memory of the tragedy of the Holocaust and its innocent victims but also a dangerous for all of us instigation of radicalised followers of xenophobic views and sociopaths like the murderer of Hanau.

“We call on all young people to never again participate in such events, and to refuse to follow blindly the far-right views of their organizers and to be manipulated by hate ideologies, as tomorrow they themselves may fall victim to false heroes,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry welcomed the Supreme Administrative Court ruling upholding Fandukova’s ban.

“We support the actions by the Sofia Municipality and the law-enforcement authorities to protect the public order and uphold the law, as well as the Prosecutor’s actions to delete the registration of the Lukov March’s main organiser, the Bulgarian National Union Edelweiss which incites to violence and hatred based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity and antisemitic propaganda. The views promoted by the organisers, participants and supporters of the march cannot be accepted as freedom of expression, as according to the Bulgarian law and international standards they represent crimes which must be prosecuted with full severity of the law.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a media statement: “We support the Bulgarian authorities for their endeavours and efforts to stop the Lukov March from taking place on the streets of Sofia this year.

“This neo-Nazi procession in honour of a person who propagated xenophobia and antisemitism, and by so doing instilled hatred and intolerance, has rightly been prevented,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.

The actions of the Bulgarian authorities will no doubt resonate beyond its borders, the statement said.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said: “Antisemitism must be fought wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head”.

The US embassy in Sofia said that it appreciates the efforts of the government of Bulgaria to oppose the so-called Lukov March and ensure public calm.

“General Hristo Lukov was a Nazi supporter who promoted hate and injustice. While the Embassy fully supports the democratic principles of free speech and assembly, we condemn xenophobia, hate speech, or incitements to violence as contrary to the basic values of modern society,” the statement said.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S Lauder expressed his personal gratitude on Saturday to the political and judiciary authorities in Bulgaria, including Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, for putting a long-awaited end to the annual torch-lit demonstration that generally draws thousands of neo-Nazi marchers from across Europe to celebrate Holocaust-era General Hristo Lukov, whose movement sent more than 11 000 Jews to their deaths in Treblinka, the WJC said.
This year, the organisers of the march agreed to obey a Supreme Administrative Court decision to uphold a municipal court order limiting the event to only flower-laying at Lukov’s home. The Sofia Municipal Police also reportedly advised the organisers of the march that any person who violated this order would be stopped. In the end, only some 60 supporters were in attendance.
“For the first time in more than a decade, the Jewish community of Bulgaria has been spared its yearly day of fear and apprehension from shameful flame-wielding thugs who parade through the streets to glorify the very ideology that brought the near destruction of the Jewish people,” Lauder said.

“At this frightening time of rising antisemitic activity across the world, this is a moment of true victory for the Jewish community, the people of Bulgaria, and all promoters of justice and tolerance worldwide.”
“The World Jewish Congress is deeply grateful to the officials within the Bulgarian political and judicial sectors, including Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva and Deputy Foreign Minister and National Coordinator against Antisemitism Georg Georgiev, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova, Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, and the many others have been sincerely responsive to our concerns over this inciteful demonstration,” Lauder said.
“Our partnership to ensure the safety and security of the Bulgarian Jewish community has always been extremely positive and receptive, and the government’s proactive efforts in recent years in mobilizing to ban the march despite the many legal obstacles is a clear testament to its true support and friendship,” he said.

“Their cooperation last year with the WJC and the  Organisation of Jews in Bulgaria, Shalom, in convening the first-ever March for Tolerance to oppose this scourge was another critical demonstration of their dedication to helping us work to quell these flames of hatred, and it was an action that spoke louder than words. This year, only a few dozen neo-Nazi thugs showed up. Next year, let’s hope that the month of February will pass without a single disturbance of this kind,” Lauder said.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said in a message on Twitter: “We applaud Bulgaria’s judicial and political steps to stop Lukov March in Sofia on February 22. The march glorifies Nazism, draws extremists from near and far, and poses a danger. It has no place in Bulgaria, which values intergroup harmony and has a proud record of saving 50 000 Jews in WW2”.



The Sofia Globe staff

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