A protest against Slovenia’s coronavirus shutdown sparked some of the most violent scenes the country has seen in years, as police moved in with teargas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
The rally in the capital Ljubljana, organised by activists calling themselves the Slovenian branch of cyber group Anonymous, started late in the afternoon and led to several injuries and arrests as the protesters clashed with police.
Several hundred people gathered in front of the Slovenian parliament building, with some attacking police officers who warned them that public gatherings were banned due to the coronavirus shutdown.
The demonstrators threw bottles, firecrackers, stones and smoke bombs at anti-riot police who responded with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon.
During the clashes and skirmishes that continued in parts of central Ljubljana for more than two hours, a photographer was also injured, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
Private POP TV reported at least three people had been injured while Ljubljana’s police chief Stanislav Vrecar told reporters that “around ten police officers” had been lightly wounded, mostly by stones hurled at them.
“At 7:00 pm police restored peace and order in Ljubljana,” Vrecar said, adding that ten protesters had been detained during the operation.
Interior Minister Ales Hojs told public TV that football hooligans had been among the crowd.
While Slovenia was relatively unscathed by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, last month the government ordered a second shutdown to try to halt a surge in infections which has seen the total number of cases pass 41,000 in the country of two million.
The measures include a curfew, restrictions on travel and the closure of schools and non-essential shops.
Thursday’s protest was the most violent in Slovenia since a series of demonstrations in Ljubljana and Slovenia’s second city Maribor in 2012-2013 against local and state authorities, who the protesters blamed for an economic crisis in the tiny eurozone state.