22:14 / 22.11.2021.

Author: Katja Miličić

Leaders clash over Covid measures protest

President Milanović and Prime Minister Plenković

President Milanović and Prime Minister Plenković

Foto: Dnevnik / HRT

President Zoran Milanović defended some of the protesters at Saturday's large rally in Zagreb against the government's latest Covid measures and said media were underplaying the size of the event.

people attended the protest. The leading proponents of the protest cited much larger figures.

“There were a lot of people there. A lot. And many of them have nothing to do with these crazy things we heard there. Many are educated and vaccinated. I know some of them personally,” said Milanović on Monday.

The President has stated that he opposes the Covid certificate mandate and believes it is unconstitutional. He is vaccinated and supports vaccination but believes it is a personal choice.

Responding to the President's remarks, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that Milanović was the only EU president who opposed Covid certificates. The PM also condemned the attacks on reporters at the protest but also had some sharp words for opposition politicians who took part.

“We are dealing with a bunch of political opportunists who are, in a ridiculous way, trying to undermine measures that were enacted to protect the public,” Plenković said.

Several opposition politicians were spotted at the rally, including Miro Bulj, Zlatko Hasanbegović, Marin Miletić, Nino Raspudić and MEPs Ivan Vilibor Sinčić and Mislav Kolakušić.

A number of small town majors, including Miro Bulj, the mayor of Sinj, said last week they would not comply with the Covid certificate mandate which require all public employees to have a certificate showing they are vaccinated or have had Covid within the last year. Those who do not can show a negative test. The requirement also applies to anyone entering a public institution.

"Then you have some wise guys who say, OK, this applies to Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, and Osijek but in Primošten, Sinj and Čabar, there's no coronavirus!” said Plenković.

He also expressed frustration that opponents of the new rules are also against testing, claiming the tests are “invasive”, which the PM says is absurd.

“They’re taking it to the point of absurdity. There are people who are willing to take advantage of people's fear, lack of knowledge and lack of information and make it about swabs!" he said.

Health care workers were also shocked by the protest. The event included an eclectic roster of speakers, from fringe on-line media figures and prominent pre-Covid anti-vaccine activists to priests and veterans.

“My colleagues and I were stunned when we heard the rhetoric, the chants, the songs,” said Anđa Novokment, the head nurse at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases Dr. Fran Mijhaljević in Zagreb, one of the leading Covid hospitals in the country.

“Next time they want to organize a protest, they should consider what is happening in our hospitals, about the people who are struggling for oxygen, on a ventilator,” she added.

The head of Infectious Diseases at Split Clinical Hospital, Dr. Julije Meštrović has a message for the protesters who believe the government is lying to them about case numbers and deaths: the numbers cannot be faked.

“You can’t fake the numbers. We send our tallies to the County Task Force and to the Ministry every morning and these figures are public. Besides, if they are still suspicious, they can come to the hospital to see for themselves.

Novi List reporter Tihana Tomičić says the crowd was rallied by mostly right-wing politicians. She does not believe this was coincidental.

“These people feel like they have been manipulated by the government and the Covid Task Force, However, I think they are being manipulated by right wing figures who were there,” she said, adding “These people are looking to sow division for political profit.”

Police say many laws were violated at the protest, including the fact that the organizers did not have a permit. An investigation is underway, police said.

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