Saturday, November 26, 2005
Despite heavy snowing, tens of thousands of workers and supporters marched today in Ljubljana, Slovenia in the largest demonstration since the country’s independence in 1991 to protest against the government programme of economic reforms, including privatisation of public services, tax cuts for businessmen and the abolition of the lower value added tax rate for items like food and books.
The protests, jointly organized by several trade union federations and attended by representatives of almost all Slovenian trade unions, began with an hour-long march from Ljubljana’s Tivoli park to the Congress Square (Kongresni trg). Workers and trade unionists were joined by supporters from Croatia, Italy and Austria, as well as students, anarchist groups, and general population. Several politicians from the opposition Liberal democracy and Social democrats were seen in the crowd. Noisy protesters armed with whistles, rattles and even some flares, marched through the snow waving trade union flags and carrying banners denouncing government policies. There were even a couple of old socialist flags with red stars. Riot police were seen on side streets and guarding accessess to government buildings, but they did not intervene.
The protest continued at the Congress Square with speeches of the representatives of trade unions and student organizations who denounced the government policy as leading into greater inequality and decreased standard of living for ordinary people. The loudest boos of the audience were drawn by the remarks about blaming the unemployed for being unemployed, introduction of university fees, and government’s waiving of taxes and health and pension fund contributions for church officials. The speeches were followed by a musical program, but the crowd soon started dispersing to escape the weather. Trade unions organized transport for 40,000 people to attend, but many buses were stuck in traffic jams on snowy roads and arrived too late for the protest. The police estimated the number of protesters to 25,000.