SENATE ROTUNDA, CORUSCANT - Large scale rioting was narrowly averted today as the Republic's Senate Guard was forced to disperse the growing crowds clustering at the entrances of the Senate Rotunda, provoking further agitation from the assembled protestors. Thirty-eight protestors were arrested, with four of them having to be rushed to hospital, alongside two wounded Senate Guards.
Senate Guards attempt to restrain a protestor.
The past two weeks has seen increasing numbers of vocal advocates and opponents of the Military Creation Act, the crucial Republic Army vote that will be decided next week. Citing increased security concerns, the Senate Guard attempted to relocate the crowds, which in turn sparked tense confrontations.
"The blue guards started telling everyone to clear the doors, and then people started shouting back. They [the protestors] tried to push back, and that's when the rifles came out," said eyewitness Lia Reicheds, a Senate clerk who had to weather the crowds to get into work.
The blue robed Senate Guards, brandishing their ceremonial yet effective rifles, fired stun blasts into the crowds, targeting the most aggressive of the activists. Protestors tried to fight back, throwing placards and refuse at the guards. In the rush of the stampeding crowd, four of the stunned activists were crushed.
Two Senate Guards that attempted to extricate the wounded were then attacked with clubs. Lt. Anjavay Rosit and Lt. Troye Mulleshar sustained blunt trauma injuries before their assailants were stunned into submission.
The entire incident spanned over an hour before order was restored. The north landing, which leads to the Rotunda's largest entrance, is now under the watchful eye of 50 Senate Guards and six Jedi Knights.
The majority of the arrested demonstrators were students from the University of Coruscant's Southern Campus, who were there to protest the vote. The remainder of the group has relocated to the smaller, western landing.
"We are a peaceful demonstration," stressed a female Ishi Tib student over a loud-hailer. "Don't let these warmongers provoke you to lowering yourselves to their level."
"While I regret that it had to turn violent, my guards acted per orders and are to be commended," said Jesra Loture, Captain of the Senate Guard. "We have a responsibility to the representatives of the Republic. We have hundreds of delegates arriving in the coming days, and we have to make sure they are safe, and to do so, we have to clear those entryways."
An estimated 7,000 activists are gathered along the circumference of the Senate grounds, most of them protesting the possibility of a Republic army. A pro-military faction is considerably smaller, but no less committed to voicing their views -- views that have broken out into isolated brawls along the concourse. The Senate Guard has more than tripled security in the past week.
Further crowding the grounds are all manner of fringe activist groups using the opportunity to spread their messages. The People's Inquest has transplanted their makeshift camp from the steps of the Jedi Temple to the Senate plaza alongside a number of alien activist groups, such as the Dugs for Democracy.
"It's a zoo out there," said SBI Director Armand Isard. "We've got thousands of people, here, and that just compounds our security concerns. We are just moving them away from the gates, and not ‘rounding up agitators' or ‘restricting their rights to assemble or voice their opinions,' despite their more colorful claims."