ESTONIA: EKRE anti-migration pact rally gets out of hand

(European Civic Forum on CIVICUS Monitor) Protestors manhandled a rival politician during the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) rally which was mobilised to protest against the United Nation’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, held outside the Parliament of Estonia (Riigikogu) on 26th November 2018.

Member of the European Parliament, Indrek Tarand (Social Democrat Party-SDE) was physically abused after he attempted to take the microphone away from MP Martin Helme (EKRE) while speaking negatively about refugees. Tarand was present at the protest together with several other politicians of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) attempting to respond to concerns over the contested UN Global Compact for Migration but they were reportedly barred from the stage to speak.

video of the incident shows Tarand being pushed off the stage and immediately surrounded by protesters who knocked him to the ground and kicked him. Following the scuffle, the politician did not report any serious injuries. Providing testimonies about the incident, Tarand said:

“I was a victim of physical violence, and as a law-abiding citizen I filed a police report after what happened […] This kind of public attack seriously cannot be allowed.”

As the police launched an investigation into the incident, EKRE representatives filed with the police a criminal case against Tarand under article 158 of the Penal Code related to “interference with or violent dispersion of lawfully organised public meeting”. After assessing the report submitted by EKRE, police did not find basis for launching a criminal investigation and stated that Tarand’s actions were not attempted to interfere with the conducting of a lawfully organised public meeting. The Central Tallinn Police Station chief Kaido Saarniit, reportedly stated: “Rather, with his statement, he [Tarand] became a participant in the public meeting. Interfering with a meeting and disrupting it are not the same thing. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, everyone has the right to express their opinion.”

The Prime Minister, Jüri Ratas condemned the incident and particularly the “use of any sort of violence in defending one’s views and attacking opponents” and stressed the importance of expressing personal opinion in public as fundamental part of democracy.