Bulgarian Students Join Anti-Govt Protests, Occupy University Buildings
By Thomas Seymat
In recent days, Bulgaria’s capital Sofia has witnessed a series of student protests and the occupation of university buildings that have injected new life into a persistent anti-government movement that is now into its 138th day.
The latest developments started when, on Wednesday October 23, students occupied “Lecture Hall 272”, the largest teaching room in Sofia University’s St. Kliment Ohridski building.
In a statement read to the public on October 25, the occupying students explained: “…angered by the systemic violations of constitutional order in the country by the current government led by Plamen Oresharski(…)[our] ultimate goal is for Bulgaria to become a country with governance, grounded in moral values rather than personal benefits.”
Among their objectives is to force the resignation of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski’s government and see new general elections as soon as possible. They say that in the face of “intolerance of the public body to widespread criminal lawlessness in the highest levels of government,” they want “Bulgaria to become a country of civilized rule of law [and] and the promotion of justice and knowledge as high social values.”
The students claim that more than a hundred professors have signed a declaration supporting their occupation.
Anti-government protesters were quick to take advantage of this new centre of contestation: on October 26, approximately 1,000 people had gathered in front of the occupied building, chanting “Resign” and “We support you,” according to local media.
More universities join the movement
Bulgarian English-speaking news agency Novinite reports that the ‘Lecture Hall 272’ occupation is a symbolic gesture. It was “staged at a time when Constitutional Court chair, Dimitar Tokushev, who also teaches at the university, was about to give a regular lecture. Students demanded an explanation from Tokushev regarding the Court’s decision to confirm the status of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski as a Member of Parliament”, a move that triggered a fresh wave of protests earlier this month.
The news agency also reports that the protest movement is gaining ground. The ‘Hall 272’ occupiers were “joined Thursday by students from the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics, and the Journalism Faculty,” according to Novinite. Classes at Sofia University were cancelled on Monday and a general assembly is set to take place in the afternoon. More recently, in Sofia, students from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts have occupied its campus. The auditorium of Sofia’s private New Bulgarian University, NBU, is also blockaded. And on Monday morning, students were occupying a lecture hall in a university located in the central Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo. Other colleges are expected to join the movement.
On social media, the hashtags #Occupy272 and #OccupySU have joined the traditional #ДАНСwithme hashtag used by protesters for more than 4 months.
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