Vilnius protest turns violent

  • 2009-01-16
  • Adam Mullett, VILNIUS

Protesters hurled smoke bombs and rocks at riot police. (Photo by Nathan Greenhalgh)

VILNIUS - Police were forced to resort to rubber bullets and tear gasafter hooligans hijacked a peaceful protest outside of Seimas (Lithuanianparliament) today.

The protests were against the government's crisis plan,which included substantial tax hikes.

"We are angry from the policies of the politics and the risein prices. They should cut more expenses from the budget, not raise taxes. Ifthere is not enough money, you have to cut expenditures 's stop building, stopcelebrating things and stop raising Seimas salaries," one student told The Baltic Times.

"They have to make these decisions, but the problem is thatthey are hurrying a lot. The government has just changed and they have to doeverything fast 's they are rushing and making mistakes," he added.

Arturas Zuokas, a member of the ruling coalition, told The Baltic Times that the government hasgone too fast with its reforms.

"I think a good message for the ruling coalition is that weneed to talk more with people about the situation that exists in Lithuania,and not to do some strange and too quick reforms that have been done in thelast months. Its an important part of democracy," he said.

"I can understand what they are saying and doing. Their mainquestion is how to live and what their future will be like for them."

The government has raised the tax burden on workers andbusiness owners, which has put many out of work.


Prior to the first wave of violence, protestors were peltingthe Seimas with snowballs and rocks. After riot police arrived, the protestorsturned violent and began throwing fireworks, glass and bricks.

Tear gas was fired to disperse the crowd, which thenresponded by throwing bricks, glass, and fireworks at the riot police.

Directly after the first tear gas attack, one student said,while crying and coughing, "I think this is shit 's our parliament works bad 'speople are without work. There are young people without work 's there isn't anymoney. We have to pay for cars, but we have no money. I don't think the policeshould have acted like this, because we haven't done anything."

The fighting escalated when hooligans began destroying construction barricadesand rubbish bins. Police fired rubber bullets in response to glass shardsbroken from the Seimas fountain.

Police pushed the hooligans down Gedimino Avenue to Lukiskes Square where they were dispersed. However, another group of hooligans attacked theSeimas again, but were quickly dispersed.