Police to ban public meetings toting hostile symbols in northern Estonia
In connection with potential gatherings on the April 26 anniversary of 2007 unrest in Tallinn (the so-called Bronze Night) and May 9, the police will be banning public meetings that could incite hatred and where symbols of aggression could be displayed between April 26 and May 10. Commemorating victims of WWII is not prohibited but must not manifest in inciting violence and feud.
"Commemorating victims of WWII is not prohibited, while it must not be used to incite violence and hostility between people," the police said on Wednesday.
The police explained that public meetings and use of war insignia associated with celebrating May 9 will be prohibited to avoid provocations. Banned symbols include Soviet Union and Russian flags, Ribbons of Saint George and army uniforms.
The ban initially applies to Harju and Ida-Viru counties and will be expanded as necessary.
Director General of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Elmar Vaher said in a press release that remembering the victims of the Second World War on May 9 needs to be different this year and in the future.
"Estonia has been tolerant of May 9 events so far, while Russia's current activity in Ukraine clearly rules out public gatherings that express support for the aggressor and where war insignia is touted. The police will be out in greater numbers and will have relevant symbols removed, react to offenses and detain perpetrators who incite hatred or behave in a dangerous manner."
The ban will remain in effect until May 10 but will be extended if necessary, as efforts to display hostile symbols are not allowed at other times, the PPA noted.
"The police are paying heightened attention to use of such symbols. Based on recent cases, we can say they are being used for provocation. Officers will talk to people using these symbols and ask them to remove them, while we stand ready to react more forcefully to hostile symbols as May 9 draws nearer and will bring proceedings," the PPA said.
The police emphasize that commemorating victims is not prohibited and that people can still bring flowers and light candles at cemeteries also on May 9.
"We all understand the world is not the same as before the start of the Ukraine war," Vaher said on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" webcast on Wednesday. "Celebrating May 9 must also be different. Demonstrating mentality at the Bronze Soldier Monument or the tank in Narva supports the aggressor Putin," Vaher remarked.
Vaher asked people not to try and secure permits for such public meetings in Tallinn and Narva. " We will not be granting them," he said.
All symbols that a Russian soldier displays when murdering and raping people in Ukraine are banned. These can be seen on photos of the Ukraine war. "We can see very few such symbols in Tallinn today, while we are not as naive as to believe there will not be any," Vaher said.
Vaher also recommended against provocative use of the Estonian flag. "We want to avoid situations where the police would be forced to take Estonian flags away from people." The police chief added that the PPA has reason to believe there could also be provocations using the Estonian flag.
The police have no plans to relocate the recently vandalized Bronze Soldier Monument. The incident is being investigated.
In past years, thousands have gathered at the Defense Forces Cemetery in Tallinn on May 9 that has been home to the Bronze Soldier Monument to Soviet soldiers who fought in WWII since 2007. Many have come in processions, wearing Soviet and Russian army flags, clothes etc.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski