MEP Indrek Tarand, who has promised to run in the election list of the Social Democrat Party (SDE) in March, found himself in a tussle at a Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) protest meeting in front of the Riigikogu building yesterday.
EKRE scheduled the protest to take place at the same time the Riigikogu was to vote on a declaration in support of the UN global compact on migration.
“If you do not want hundreds of thousands of refugees to come here, vote SDE!” Tarand, who had elbowed his way onto the stage, managed to shout into the microphone before EKRE political adviser Urmas Espenberg pushed him off the platform.
Furious protesters kicked Tarand and treated him to verbal abuse that cannot be printed.
A Postimees video shows people pulling at Tarand’s clothing, pushing him to his knees and kicking him.
Tarand later told Postimees that while his injuries were not serious, they were extensive. He said that he knew participants did not share his political views but was not prepared for a situation where organizers did not control the meeting.
“When politicians try to vulgarize public debate and fire people up with simple slogans for years, they will eventually lose control of the situation,” Tarand said. “Taking political debate to the streets is a dead end. We saw the comments section of Russian Delfi take to the streets in 2007. Today (yesterday – ed.), we saw the Estonian anonymous comments section.”
EKRE politician Jaak Madison said that Tarand behaved aggressively and came to disrupt the meeting and provoke participants. “Had it not been for Ivari Padar, who shielded him with his body, Tarand would have left the meeting looking less like a white person,” Madison said in a speech. Madison made a statement yesterday afternoon, accusing the media of falsely reporting Tarand was beat up.
“Indrek Tarand, exhibiting signs of intoxication, jumped onto the stage, grabbed the microphone using force, disrupted a registered public meeting and started to shout,” Madison said. After that, Tarand was allegedly removed from the stage “by the people”.
Tarand filed a report with the police that prompted criminal proceedings based on aggravated reach of public order. EKRE also filed a report with the authorities, claiming that Tarand disrupted a registered public meeting and broke the organizer’s microphone. Police confirmed that Tarand was sober and said that other circumstances will be determined in the course of the investigation.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas condemned the incident. “Publicly expressing one’s opinion and holding protest meetings is a part of democracy,” he wrote on social media. “It comes with the responsibility to guarantee the safety of participants and bystanders and respectful treatment of everyone whose position is different. Unfortunately, we saw how the organizers of the EKRE meeting failed or did not want to do so today.”
Ratas condemned all manner of violence in defending one’s positions and going after those of opponents: “Instead of our hands and feet, we must speak using our mouths, our heads and hearts.”