Tensions in Sofia Escalate, Protesters 'Fire' Tomatoes at MPs
The blockade of downtown Sofia staged by the anti-government rally is growing Thursday and tensions are escalating.
Protesters, divided in groups of 20, have occupied main streets and intersections, such as Eagles' Bridge, the intersection across Sofia University, the one at the Military Club, "Tsar Liberator" boulevard, "Rakovski" and "Moskovska" streets.
The entire perimeter around the Parliament and the "Alexander Nevsky" cathedral is sealed by metal fences and the sites are currently inaccessible. There is no access to the Holy Synod building either.
Huge riot police presence is reported in downtown Sofia and traffic at numerous spots is at standstill.
Meanwhile, protesters have started to throw tomatoes and other vegetables at the Parliament.
Zelio Boychev, Member of the Parliament from the Coalition for Bulgaria, led by the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, has been attacked on his way out of the parliament building and has been hit on the back by a tomato. Police detained briefly the attacker, a 55-60-year-old man, and released him after 10 minutes.
The BGNES news agency also reports a somewhat surprising aggression towards journalists as tomatoes and plastic bottles have been thrown at them as well.
Meanwhile, the public radio informed that police have already removed protesters from Eagles' Bridge as they impeded the large number of public transportation vehicles passing through the intersection, which is often congested even on regular days.
The protest is continuing near the Parliament.
The Interior Ministry's press office informed that a man tried to set himself on fire on Eagles' Bridge earlier in the morning, but was prevented by other demonstrators and the police.
14 people have been arrested since the morning.
As Bulgaria marks Thursday the 176th anniversary since the birth of national hero and Apostle of Freedom, Vasil Levski, the rally came amidst calls for more radical demonstrations and blockades of the Parliament and nearby streets.
The Thursday day protest is to merge once again with the traditional evening rally, the 35th in a row, starting 6:30 pm on Independence square in front of the Council of Ministers building.
The series of the peaceful, but mass and persisting anti-government protests in Bulgaria was triggered by the scandalous appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski as Chair of the State Agency for National Security (DANS).
Although the appointment was revoked, the people went on to demand that the Socialist-endorsed cabinet of Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, resign collectively over ties with oligarchs.
Protesters are also calling for Election Code amendments which will guarantee greater representation of the people in Parliament.
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