'Olukorrast riigis': Protests must be allowed but orderly

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Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja Source: ERR

People need to be free to protest, while current rules must be complied with, hosts of the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja found on Sunday.

Riikoja said that protests that have been taking place on Toompea Hill and in Freedom Square only have a provisional link to planned amendments to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act (NETS).

"Most of these protesters have never read the bill. Rather, these protests are born out of frustration of one group of people – which is understandable – and the desire of another group to destabilize the situation, sow panic and reap political profit in some cases. It has been clearly shown how people with obvious ties to Russia have participated very actively in these protests."

Riikoja said that even though it was somewhat frightening to see armed police officers, the protesters provided plenty of cause.

"I understand that the aim of the police was to maintain order and compliance with the law on the one hand and to demonstrate that they are to be taken seriously on the other. How it turned out is a different matter. Looking at pictures of shall we say well-equipped police officers, whether we call then riot police or special units, it came off a little grisly," he remarked.

"On the other hand, we need to be honest and admit that the protesters have done their utmost to merit this reaction. Looking at how the police are treated, the verbal abuse; how a group of people referring to themselves as "living people" (elavad inimesed) treats the police on location and on social media… What do you do? Kind words were used many times [by the police] but no one listened," he added.

Riikoja also said that people need to be free to protest irrespective of whether someone likes their reasons, while social rules nevertheless need to be observed.

"It is simply the times. No one likes these special rules, while we need to put up with them. It does not mean you have to resist the police, verbally abuse them and fail to do what they tell you. And if you do, you should not be surprised by the reaction," he explained.

"But it is also a problem when a considerable part of people perceives police intervention, activities and reactions as a threat so to speak. Not as efforts to maintain order but attempts to restrict freedoms. The police must consider how their conduct, strategy and tactics work. If the police have information to suggest major unrest was expected, it needs to be said. I understand the police cannot share information in advance, while they can explain matters after the fact," he added.

Indrek Lepik also said that protests need to be seen from several different angles. "While we can say that people have partly come out for a reason, the participants include quite a lot of opportunists," he reasoned.

Lepik said that while people are free to protest, he sees no reason to suggest that those criticizing the protesters are opposed to their freedoms.

"I believe that we should not step on the rake of trying to fundamentally analyze this matter from a rights point of view, partly because I believe these people are fully within their right to protest and have been allowed to, but also because criticizing them in no way clashes with their rights. /…/ I believe that a notable part of the protesters has been searching for that conflict with the police, provoked it," Lepik said.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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