Police officers targets of personal insults during Tallinn cafe protest

Police officers outside MEM cafe in Tallinn, which breached coronavirus restrictions.
Police officers outside MEM cafe in Tallinn, which breached coronavirus restrictions. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Several police officers were threatened and insulted during the protests, which took place on Tuesday after the Health Board ordered a Tallinn cafe to be closed. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) contacted six people, but did not identify a direct threat.

PPA spokesperson Kristjan Lukk told ERR that ever since police officials initiated proceedings and checked for coronavirus certificate checks at MEM Cafe, the police and their families have been targets of personal threats.

Lukk said the names of the police officers on the scene were figured out, after which people sent them threats and insults. The PPA has contacted six people to conduct an interview. "The police identified during the interview that there is no real danger to the persons who received threats. The people realized their mistake and proceedings were not initiated," the PPA spokesperson said.

On Tuesday evening, a large crowd of people congregated outside the cafe, expressing support for its owner.

The cafe, called MEM, had been closed earlier in the day and the area surrounding it taped off. Only residents of the building housing the cafe, and the businesses' owners and staff, are permitted beyond the cordon, while the cafe has been ordered to discontinue trade.

PPA: Insulting or threatening a police officer punishable by law

PPA communication official Maarja Punak told ERR that police officers are often in contact with people that have decided to provoke, insult or even attack them. "Police officers have a certain tolerance obligation and they must remain even when communicating with an unpleasant person. But police officers do not have to tolerate insults or physical attacks, which are punishable by law," Punak noted.

Punak said officers cannot forget their work's purpose - to protect human life, health and property. "One of the police's main missions to save lives over the past two years has been to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For this reason, the police has been involved in the Health Board's activities and it helps monitor compliance with restrictions imposed by the government."

The PPA spokesperson noted that restrictions no longer come as a surprise to people and the majority are reasonable and follow rules. "Unfortunately, there are people that consciously ignore rules. Just a conversation and verbal warning is not enough for them, we have been forced to act in a more resolute manner, writing them up, fining them or initiating misdemeanor proceedings," Punak said.

She added that the arrogant behavior of provocateurs is unfair toward everyone that adheres to the societal rules. "People have the right to have a differing opinion, but ignoring rules and provoking and insulting officials that direct attention to the rules does not help society in exiting the crisis. It is not possible to influence officials with this behavior and it is unacceptable," Punak said.

The PPA spokesperson added that police officers and healthcare workers have recently received a large number of unpleasant messages through work contacts or social media accounts, some of which are insulting and threatening to both the recipient and their loved ones. "People always have the option of going to court for an insult. For threats, we will make sure if there is danger of it realizing," Punak said.

She added that the police get in touch with the people behind the threats and they often say the statements stem from excess emotion. "If a person feels like a police officer has treated them unfairly, they have an option to file a complaint with internal control. Insulting and threatening officials shows that the person does not respect the principles of rule of law. You can also give feedback on healthcare services, while remaining constructive and pleasant. Many of these situations would not happen if people let initial emotions settle and look at it with a fresh perspective," Punak concluded.

People gathering at the MEM Cafe in Kalamaja to protest against a Health Board order to close the cafe for business due to coronavirus non-conpliance. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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