Paleckis promises further protests

  • 2009-02-25
  • By Nathan Greenhalgh

MORE TO COME: Paleckis, the head of the Frontas party, is organizing a string of protests against the government.

VILNIUS - The organizer of the Feb. 3 "onion rally" has said that Lithuania can expect more protest in the future. He pledged, however, to keep the protests peaceful and take measures to avoid another round of riots like the ones that swept through Vilnius on Jan. 16.

Algirdas Paleckis' fringe political party Frontas, which was one of the groups protesting at Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) on Jan. 16, is creating civil disobedience committees across Lithuania to work as grassroots organizers for the party, coordinate demonstrations and sniffing out so-called provocateurs at rallies.
"Lithuania is heading into a very dramatic time … people will be protesting," Paleckis told The Baltic Times. "In order to manage this process and to make it civilized and effective, we must teach people, otherwise they will go and throw the stones … if we do not work with them, they will be throwing the stones or worse."
The Vilnius County Prosecutors' Office has asked Paleckis to testify about his role in the January protest. Paleckis claims Frontas members did not perpetrate any violence.

"You know the general prosecutor has no evidence," Paleckis said.
Vytautas Makauskas, a spokesperson for Lithuania's State Security Department, said Frontas was a "normal political party."
"The information we have we are not sharing officially," Makauskas told The Baltic Times. "Normally we cannot watch those political organizations when they are not committing any crimes."

Party "not militarizing"

Paleckis denied media reports that the recent moves from the party represented a "militarization."
"That is out of ignorance or out of predisposition and negative ideas … there is [nothing] military about it," Paleckis said.
"We have no idea whatsoever to arm these committees or have any signs of a military or paramilitary organization," he said.

Paleckis denounced using violence against the government and denied that Frontas had anything to do with the Jan. 16 mayhem.
"We do not justify violence in any way … we are not against the constitution and we are not a violent party," he said. "We must find out how to identify potential provocateurs… we were not sending those provocateurs."
In addition to identifying possible rioters, Paleckis said committee members would be trained in how to draw slogans and cartoons. They would also speak with the media and be drilled on the importance of civil disobedience, which he said was inspired by American philosopher Henry Thoreau.

"He [Thoreau] spoke about the obligations of civil disobedience in the face of bad government policies," Paleckis said. "We are against the monopolization of the economy; we are against the monopolists and oligarchs that are dictating their policies to the Seimas."
One committee will be active in each of Lithuania's 10 counties and lead by one coordinator.
"Lithuania has 10 counties, so we will start with 10 nexuses," Paleckis said. "We will appoint, in each of these 10 counties, one coordinator."

Paleckis says he hopes that the grassroots efforts blossoms into increased support for his party, which failed in the last election to pass the necessary 5 percent threshold needed to win a seat in parliament. Although 7,000 people showed up at the January protest that was organized by trade unions, only about 100 appeared at the "onion rally" Frontas set up in February.

Paleckis acknowledged that grassroots support will take time to build.
"Maybe it will take years. Voters need to understand that we are defenders of their interest," Paleckis said. "Maybe in the next two years we'll receive 7 or 8 percent."