Affrontements à Vilnius janvier 2009
Protesters clash with police in Lithuania
Published: January 16, 2009
VILNIUS, Lithuania: Police used tear gas to disperse angry protesters throwing rocks and eggs at Lithuania‘s Parliament on Friday as an anti-government demonstration turned violent.
One police officer and at least two other people were injured in the clashes, which came three days after a similar demonstration in neighboring Latvia degenerated into street riots that left more than 40 injured.
Anti-government protesters have also turned violent in Bulgaria, as a wave of discontent over economic woes, government reforms and corruption sweep through parts of Eastern Europe.
About 7,000 people gathered outside the Parliament building in Vilnius to protest against higher taxes and other government reforms aimed at battling a deepening economic crisis.
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius center-right coalition, which swept to power in October elections, has been criticized for unpopular tax hikes introduced to shore up government finances amid fears of a deepening economic crisis.
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The violence started when police pushed away protesters who approached the building demanding to talk to the Parliament speaker. Rocks and eggs were hurled at police and the Parliament building, as officers used tear gas to break up the crowd.
In Latvia, police detained more than 100 people on Tuesday after protesters pelted police with rocks, shattered windows and looted a liquor store.
Danuta Pavilenene, BC, Vilnius, 16.01.2009
Several thousand protesters gathered by the Lithuanian parliament building in Vilnius today to protest the government’s economic, financial and social policies.
People threw stones, snowballs and eggs at the parliament building, several windows were broken, reports LETA/REUTERS.
The police estimate that approximately 7,000 protesters gathered by the Seimas building.
By now, the police have pushed the protesters away from the parliament building, lrt.lt reports.
Lithuanian trade unions demand the government to stop tax reform, not cut salaries in the government sector and cancel the planned increase in taxes. The unions point out that the government’s decisions will cause more poverty and also damage business.
After this week’s riots in Riga, Lithuanian mass media and officials expressed concerns that the anti-government rally in Vilnius could also turn violent.
Today slightly more than 20 protesters, representing various labor unions, gathered by the Lithuanian Embassy in Riga to express support for the people of Lithuania who demand the Lithuanian government to go back on the planned reforms, LETA observed.
As the Vice-Chairman of the Latvian Association of Free Trade Unions (LAFTU) Egils Baldzens informed LETA, participants in the rally in support of Lithuanian trade unions represent the sectors of culture, agriculture and metal processing, as well as woodworkers union, sailors and other unions.
The Lithuanian government has been more cautious in their reforms than the government of Latvia, even in the given complicated circumstances the Lithuanian government has not yet ordered salaries cut in the public sector. However, these are tough times in Lithuania too – the value-added tax is being raised, therefore LAFTU have gathered at the Lithuanian Embassy to show solidarity with the Lithuanians, Baldzens pointed out.
LAFTU Chairman Peteris Krigers said that today in Vilnius and in other cities of Lithuania, around 20,000 workers participate in rallies.
Taking in consideration the January 13 events in Riga Old Town, two police cars have been assigned to observe the peaceful protest at the Lithuanian Embassy in Riga.
The trouble appeared to be coming from a group of around 200 people in a crowd outside parliament estimated at around 2,000. After riot police intervened, a stand off ensued between protesters and police.
A part of the crowd also marched along the main street to the main government building, though the demonstration was peaceful there.
The march comes after a 10,000-strong protest in neighbouring Latvia on Tuesday descended into a riot. Some protesters tried to storm parliament and then went on the rampage.
Anti-government protests in Bulgaria led to two days of riots this week.