A march honoring the Bulgarian alliance with Nazi Germany went forward as planned in Sofia Saturday evening, despite a mayoral ban on the demonstration and an international outcry.
The torchlight procession known as Lukov March, commemorating the late Bulgarian war minister and leader of the pro-Nazi Union of the Bulgarian National Legions Hristo Lukov, has gone on annually since 2003, despite official efforts to shut the procession down, according to Novinite, a Bulgarian English-language news outlet.
While considerable restrictions on the march have been implemented over the past three years — participants are now only allowed to lay wreaths at Lukov’s house in the capital — these conditions have been violated and the demonstration has nevertheless continued to take place.
Demonstrators marched, without a permit, from the National Palace of Culture to Lukov’s home surrounded by heavy police presence. Flags of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian National Union in addition to several others representing a Polish neo-Nazi group draped the streets as the procession advanced.
Sofia police reported that a number of Polish nationals with criminal records were in attendance. These ultra-nationalists had been associated with a group that disseminates pro-Nazi propaganda.
Prior to the march, a man was arrested for possession of pepper spray. Six others were barred from the meeting point due to intoxication.
The procession has been the object of denunciation from all sides of the Bulgarian political spectrum. Both the Israeli and US embassies in Sofia issued statements of condemnation before the march convened.
“General Lukov and his present-day followers express fascist, pro-Nazi, racist and anti-Semitic views which should be banned in public space,” said the Israeli embassy in its official statement.
Israeli Ambassador to Sofia Irit Lilian told Bulgarian National Television that such hateful demonstrations against minorities, immigrants, and Jews have no place in a democratic society.
Following the march, the World Jewish Congress issued a statement on behalf of Bulgarian Jewry slamming the rally. CEO Robert Singer commended Mayor Yordanka Fandakova for instituting the ban, but expressed distress “that even that declaration of authority could not put a stop to such a display of hatred and anti-Semitism.”
Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria, added, “The very existence of this rally is a disgrace for a European capital which in less than a year will be hosting the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU.”