Demonstration became violent

The demonstration against the corona-related restrictions became violent.
The demonstration against the corona-related restrictions became violent. Photo: Andres Haabu

The demonstration against the corona-related restrictions, which began at the Sikupilli shopping centre, became violent at the end of the meeting as the police handcuffed a young man attempting to drive up to Toompea hill.

Approximately a hundred vehicles gathered in the Sikupilli mall parking lot at 10.30 in the morning. They had arrived from various locations all over Estonia and were generally in a positive mood although some comments were more aggressive. “We have to kick out that stench of shit from the parliament,” was one example.

Once they had reached the city centre, it emerged that the police did not allow the protestors with their vehicles up to the Toompea Palace. The cars were parked on Vabaduse Square and the demonstrators walked to the Nobility House – where Varro Vooglaid was holding his officially registered demonstration. Judging by eye, the number of participants seemed to reach approximately two thousand.

“If you believe that they want you good, then in fact you can be certain that they want to destroy you!” the speaker declared from the podium. The public was chanting and applauding.

The first larger conflict

When waling away from Toompea, it seemed that the demonstration would end peacefully, despite emotional speeches.

“But why I cannot go to Toompea?” demanded Ivan, wearing fancy sunglasses and picking fight with the police at Toompea hill. “I cannot! This is what I am trying to find out – why I cannot? If they order it, then it will be permitted! Is this the way they do it in this country?” he said.

The police officers tried to make him understand that he was obstructing traffic. “We have to ensure free traffic,” an officer said. Others present became incensed and declared that it was the police who were obstructing traffic.

Ivan was unwilling to obey the officers’ request to remove his vehicle from the street. “Do not give up!” bystanders kept exhorting him.

The situation was heating up. Suddenly two men in green uniforms emerged from a grey van. “Now they are bringing the army?” the protestors shouted. These were members of the fast response team who began directing the people off the street to the sidewalk. Bystanders were filming the incident. Ivan and the police officers had not yet reached an agreement.

At one moment I van sat in the vehicle and seemed to have decided to leave. “The special squad started to twist my arms. Tried to seize me by the hand and order to come with them, I refused. I shall leave so that the special squad would not twist me! I shall go and see how to get to Toompea!” said Ivan from his grey Mercedes SUV. The bystanders were shouting “Do not give up!”, “Do not leave!” and “Shame!”

Ivan tried to tell them that he did not want to get arrested. “I’d rather not have it like that.”

However, for some reason he did not leave and the argument escalated. “Why do you believe that you can give the people random orders?” some man asked the police officer.

When I asked Ivan why he did not leave as promised, he answered that he was hoping for the situation to calm down. “I shall try to get to Toompea!” And not on foot like the others, but in his car.

“I backed up a bit, just in case, because the special squad was starting to attack me,” Ivan said as a police officer in high visibility vest stood by his parked car in the opposite lane.

Ivan backed off and seemed to be leaving but was soon back in the middle of the intersection. The situation became more complicated as the demonstration by the Nobility House ended and several hundred people were moving through the same spot.

It was clear that the situation will escalate and the fast response officials decided to act: two vans blocked Ivan’s car. He was pulled put of the vehicle and his hands were cuffed behind his back. He was pressed face first against the poster on the car, which spelled out “Estonian Convoy 2022”.

Playing snowballs with the police

The man was then pushed in the rapid response team van which tried to leave quietly. But the people had become ever more excited by that time. As the van began to move, a number of protestors jumped in front of it, shouting: “Do not let them pass!”

The fast response officers in green uniforms tried to pull the people away from the bus, but in vain. “Please, go to the sidewalk!” the officer shouted. The answer was a resolute “No!” More people stood in from of the police van, others started bombarding the van and the officers with snowballs, hitting several in the head.

The throwers included schoolgirls, elderly women and younger men. “Come here! Come here!” could be heard in front of the van. The situation was chaotic and at some moment there was scuffle between the snow-spattered response team and the demonstrators. The van finally managed to leave to a chorus of curses and the gang of protestors, several hundred strong, began moving towards the city.

They were excited and the group reached the intersection – traffic was stopped for some minutes and resulted in a jam. They then moved towards Vabaduse Square. Loudspeakers were brought out, playing “Dawn” and “the Serf’s Song”.

There was no one in the adjacent vaccination station.