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Loud protesters throw peas at government

About 8,000 people gathered on June 3 in front of the government's seat in Bratislava to express dissatisfaction with the marred May 23-24 public vote on NATO accession and direct presidential election. Similar protests, although much smaller in scale, were organized in Košice, Trnava, Nitra, Prešov, Trenčín and Banská Bystrica.
Organized by the eight opposition parties who had engineered the petition drive for direct presidential election earlier this year, the rally called "We won't let them to silence us!" was loud indeed. People brought trumpets, sirens, drums, whistles and virtually anything noisy.
A special ingredient of the rally, though, was peas. A Slovak saying, "Throwing peas on the wall" describes a situation in which reproaches or criticism lead nowhere. At the rally's end, people threw bushels of peas on the building of the government, which opposition leaders claim hasn't ignored the vox populi for too long.



About 8,000 people gathered on June 3 in front of the government's seat in Bratislava to express dissatisfaction with the marred May 23-24 public vote on NATO accession and direct presidential election. Similar protests, although much smaller in scale, were organized in Košice, Trnava, Nitra, Prešov, Trenčín and Banská Bystrica.

Organized by the eight opposition parties who had engineered the petition drive for direct presidential election earlier this year, the rally called "We won't let them to silence us!" was loud indeed. People brought trumpets, sirens, drums, whistles and virtually anything noisy.

A special ingredient of the rally, though, was peas. A Slovak saying, "Throwing peas on the wall" describes a situation in which reproaches or criticism lead nowhere. At the rally's end, people threw bushels of peas on the building of the government, which opposition leaders claim hasn't ignored the vox populi for too long.

The government, however, made sure that the vegetable debris didn't reach the walls of its residence. Police warded the protesters off to about 50 meters away from the fence. Even the best pitchers stood no chance, although all opposition leaders on the spot gave it a serious shot.

In the end, the ralliers amused themselves with a man-propelled float which at one point began floating through the crowd. The four men carrying a coffin with "government" inscribed on it were gravely shocked, though, when they too became a target for peas and even eggs.

"The government baffled the public vote because it was afraid that we would freely elect our own president, that we would freely speak out on which direction we want to steer our country," Ján Čarnogurský, leader of the Christian Democratic Movement, said to the crowd. "So far, we throw only peas. But we will also throw ballots next year, electing ourselves a better parliament and a better cabinet."

"The government that has stood up against its own people in the style of Bolsheviks, cannot do anything but quit singing and go east," said Ján Langoš, Democratic Party chairman, referring to Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's cabinet opening its regular session on Tuesday following the marred referendum by singing a Slovak folk song.

After the rally, scores of cars began honking horns, as people were leaving the spot in their vehicles, transforming the neighborhood so that it felt like Manhattan at rush hour for about 20 minutes.

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