ZAGREB, July 15 (Reuters) – Croatian police arrested more than a hundred people on Thursday, including actors, writers and city officials, after they staged a peaceful rally to prevent private construction works in the heart of the capital.
Investor Tomislav Horvatincic says he has green light from local authorities to build a modern residential block, a shopping mall and a multi-level garage in Varsavska street, one of the most famous pedestrian areas in the Croatian capital.
Several civic groups have been camping at the building site for months, trying to prevent the works and occasionally scuffling with police. They say the project lacks necessary permits and will destroy the heart of the old city.
“Devastation of public space and common goods has become a rule rather than an exception. Varsavska is only one example but has become a symbol of civil resistance against authorities that are not acting in public interest,” the civic groups said in a statement handed out before the protests on Thursday.
Riot police had to carry by force several dozen protesters who blocked the construction site, as workers began cutting down old trees. Police said they had arrested 101 protesters, most of whom were soon released.
“This is the highest number of citizens arrested in a single day in Zagreb. Because of that and because of police repression we demand that Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko step down,” Gordan Bosanac of the House of Human Rights told reporters.
No injuries were reported in the scuffle but President Ivo Josipovic urged the police “not to use force unless protesters are putting up active resistance”.
Horvatincic, who insists he has all the legal permits, has said such protests only undermined the already poor investment climate in the European Union candidate. (Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic)