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Beef Over Bulgarian Beach Sparks Protest Over 'Protected' Elites

Not so fast.
Not so fast.

When three activists attempted to come ashore on a strip of beach on the Black Sea coast, they knew the law was on their side: All beaches are public property in Bulgaria.

But this beach was different.

On July 7, a leader of the extra-parliamentary coalition Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, and two other members tried to land their boat on a small sliver of coastline in Rosenets Park in the Burgas region. The beach -- rocky and strewn with weeds and refuse -- is not accessible by land because the road is private property.

But three beefy security guards were waiting and pushed them roughly back into the water.

More guards arrived and threatened to sink their boat. Until, that is, Ivanov told them he was streaming live on Facebook to more than 6,000 viewers. They backed off.

When the police arrived, officers only checked the identification documents of the three activists, not the security guards, who all denied they were members of the National Protection Service (NSO), which is responsible for guarding the president, prime minister, and other high officials.

The beach is near a building with a marina known to be the summer residence of Ahmed Dogan, the honorary chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and allegedly one of the most powerful political figures in the country. Both Dogan and DPS member Delyan Peevski are guarded by the NSO, for undisclosed reasons. Peevski, a media mogul, is one of Bulgaria's most controversial politicians.

Ivanov said during the Facebook broadcast that he had come to the public beach to show what happens when someone approaches Dogan's summer residence.

DPS represents Bulgaria's ethnic Turks and other minorities and is generally the third-strongest party, usually polling around 10 percent. Current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov described Dogan in 2014 as the "best politician" in Bulgaria.

"Dogan was the first to realize that if he had a media empire and control over the judiciary, he could rule," Borisov told

In 2014, current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov described Ahmed Dogan (above) as the "best politician" in Bulgaria.
In 2014, current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov described Ahmed Dogan (above) as the "best politician" in Bulgaria.

Who receives NSO protection is decided by a commission made up of the NSO chief, the interior minister, and the head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS), the latter two of which are named by the prime minister.

On July 8, President Rumen Radev said that he had confirmed that the guards were from the NSO in a conversation with the service's chief, General Krasimir Stanchev. Radev said that an investigation into the legality of the officers' actions was under way.

"When basic constitutional rights are publicly violated, it erodes the already shaken trust in the state," Radev said.

He added that he didn't think that Dogan and Peevski should be guarded by the NSO, but that the decision was up to the government. Radev said he had asked Stanchev to convene the NSO commission and review the decision to protect Dogan and Peevski.

Meanwhile, a protest has been organized on Facebook to "take back" the beach on July 11 and "regain the conquered state by resisting lawlessness."

Organizers are planning on rallying at the entrance to the private road, as well as landing on the beach by boat. Almost 5,000 people have said they are going, with another 25,000 expressing interest.

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