Arrests amid clashes as ‘national uprising’ protest assails Bulgaria’s Parliament

There were confrontations outside Bulgaria’s Parliament on September 2 as thousands of participants in what was billed as a “great national uprising” protest clashed with a large contingent of gendarmerie guarding the building.

The scenes came after more than 50 days of protests in Bulgaria demanding the resignation of Boiko Borissov’s government and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, and as the National Assembly met for the first day of its autumn session, this time in its new plenary hall in the “Party House” former headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

Large numbers of people from elsewhere in Bulgaria came to capital city Sofia to take part in the September 2 protest.

By early afternoon, there were reports that “dozens” of people had been arrested amid the clashes with police.

Events began at about 8am as protesters threw eggs, tomatoes, bottles full of water and copies of 500 euro banknotes at police and at the National Assembly building. Periodically, fireworks were set off. There were scuffles as the protesters tried to breach the cordon to get into the building.

The morning also saw some participants in the protest prising out bricks from the paving in front of the building.

Further clashes ensued when protesters attempted to prevent MPs leaving the building.

Pepper spray affected not only police but also journalists covering the event. By early afternoon, there were disputes about whether it was police or the protesters who had fired the spray.

In a late morning statement, Sofia police chief Georgi Hadzhiev said that if tensions escalated further, police would respond with physical force.

Police and protesters were injured in the clashes. Ambulances took some of the more seriously injured to nearby hospitals.

Soon after noon, protesters threw bales of hay at police and tried to set fire to the hay. Police pushed them back.

The morning also saw blockages of major thoroughfares in Sofia such as Dondukov Boulevard.

Inside Parliament, President Roumen Radev, who has repeatedly backed the protests, repeated his call for the government to resign. MPs for Borissov’s GERB party and for its ultra-nationalist minority partner in government, as well as Parliament’s smallest party, Volya, walked out.

(Photos: Interior Ministry press centre)

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