Thousands of protesters have flooded the streets of Slovenia’s second largest city to protest against political elites and austerity measures. Scores have been injured as police used force to disperse the crowd.
Police employed tear gas to push back an angry crowd of some 10,000 protesters who gathered around Maribor’s city hall and started throwing rocks, bottles and flares. The situation got so tense that police had to call in reinforcements, including air support. A group of demonstrators were seen attacking police with stones and other objects.
Several arrests were made, with at least nine people were admitted to the Maribor UKC hospital, five of which were police officers, a Slovenian news agency reported.
Demonstrators were demanding the resignation of the Mayor Franc Kangler who is allegedly accused of corruption. The crowd chanted various anti-Kangler slogans, who on Monday reiterated his unwillingness to stand down. Maribor residents are furious over the Mayor’s decision to allow a private firm to install speed cameras and collect revenue from the speeding tickets instead of directing it into the city budget.
“The little man has a feeling that all politicians do is quarrel and steal,” analyst Vlado Miheljak told AP, “people here have never felt so insecure.”
Monday’s clashes follow demonstrations last week that ended in violence when groups of rock-throwing extremists clashed with police who responded with water cannon and tear gas.
Slovenia’s economy is seeing its second recession in three years, as the EU member is coming ever closer towards an international bailout. High unemployment and bad bank loans are increasingly frustrating the public. The government plans to cut the country’s budget deficit to 3 per cent of GDP, by slashing public sector wages, increasing the retirement age and reducing the welfare benefits.
This, as the country’s Prime Minister, Janez Jansa, is being tried for bribery and the main opposition leader and the mayor of Ljubljana, is being investigated for corruption.
Several protests were held around the country on Monday, including in Ljubljana with none seeing the same clashes as in Maribor.
Riot police are pictured during clashes with protesters in Maribor December 3, 2012.(Reuters / Srdjan Zivulovic)
A protester burns a picture of Maribor’s Mayor Franc Kangler during a demonstration in Maribor December 3, 2012.(Reuters / Srdjan Zivulovic)
A protester throws fireworks during clashes in Maribor December 3, 2012.(Reuters / Srdjan Zivulovic)
A demonstrator kicks a bus station during protests in Maribor on December 3, 2012.(AFP Photo / Jure Makovec)
Police arrest demonstrators during protests in Maribor on December 3, 2012.(AFP Photo / Jure Makovec)
A demonstrator stands by a burning a trash can during protests in Maribor on December 3, 2012.(AFP Photo / Jure Makovec)