Date: Fri, 13 Dec 96 22:04:02 CST
From: rich@pencil.CC.UAKRON.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: PROTESTS THROUGHOUT THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA
/** gen.radio: 293.0 **/
** Topic: (Fwd) Re: Great report from Belgrade **
** Written 11:55 PM Dec 10, 1996 by iskoric in cdp:gen.radio **
Protests in Belgrade and throughout Yugoslavia—1996/1997
From the Balkan Peace Team, Belgrade, 10 December 1996 and,
part II, 23 January 1997
Unexpected Election Results
Mass demonstrations in Yugoslavian towns have been going on since
November 19. Crowds of up to 200.000 people in Belgrade, and
20.000 in smaller cities, march through the streets, equipped
with all kinds of noisy instruments, witty slogans, and good
humor. As of this writing, there is not an end to be seen yet.
The demonstrations began in the southern Serbian city of Nis
after the second round of Yugoslavian local elections on November
17. It became clear that there was severe tampering with the
results which initially gave most contested seats to the
opposition coalition, Zajedno (Together). A revised count gave
the control of the city once again to the Socialist Party of
Serbia (SPS), the party of President Slobodan Milosevic. The
Center for Antiwar Action in Nis reported that leaders of the SPS
surrounded all the polling locations with their own paramilitary
formations, officially referred to as a kickbox club, which
mistreated candidates and members of the election commission who
were part of Zajedno. At one polling station, ballots and voter
lists were stolen and many were not found. All the returned
ballots were falsified by crossing out numbers and filling in new
ones which were to the advantage of the SPS. A member of the City
Election Commission from Zajedno intervened but to no avail. Over
20 ballots were falsified and, according to the final report, the
SPS was the victor.
The initial Zajedno win was a surprise to everyone because Nis
sits in south Serbia, the heart of Milosevic's political base.
This vote exposed a growing public dissatisfaction with the
government's economic and social policies, opinions once thought
limited to intellectuals and anti-war activists. This development
is important because it is certain to endanger favorable results
for Milosevic in the Republican elections next year.
But Nis was not the only city undergoing change. In Belgrade,
Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Novi Sad, Valjevo, Uzice, Pirot, Cacak and
in a number of other cities, Zajedno won. In some of these
communities, the contest was close. But in Belgrade, the
opposition won 70 seats in the City Council while the SPS got
The Elections Annulled
Yet in Belgrade as well as all the other cities, the SPS declared
the elections invalid due to "irregularities" committed in
the election process as well as in the counting of votes. In
almost every city, they demanded annulment of most of the seats
that the opposition coalition had won. They gave such reasons as
Zajedno promotion posters being too close to the polls, or that a
Zajedno member was having a visitor bring him dinner while he was
at the polls as a member of the election commission.
It will be difficult to get a full and accurate report about
these elections. Each polling station is monitored by an
electoral commission made up of representatives from all the
parties. Once all the votes are counted, this commission must
agree to a written minute as to their validity. The minutes from
the polls which were completed that day, concluded that the
elections had proceded in a fair and regular manner. But
independent media reported that there were various irregularities
committed by SPS members after the counting of votes, such as
putting in a few votes more, and getting access to the ballots by
the police force. In othe places, the minutes of the electoral
commissions were not to be found.
It is regretful that there were no international observers
present for either the Federal elections on 3 November or the
second round of local contests on 17 November. The OSCE turned
down a request for monitoring by the Federal government, saying
it was too short notice.
The SPS took their complaints to court and they were accepted by
every level, including the Supreme Court. Complaints filed by
Zajedno against the court decisions to cancel votes or seats in
their majority districts were all turned down, as were their
complaints against abuses at the polling places. The legal
petitions from SPS were approved at remarkable speed.
It was after the election annulments were given approval by both
the electoral commission and the Supreme Court that Zajedno
leaders called for public protests against the disrespect of
the voters' decisions. The protesters are demanding that the
original election results be respected.
The opposition coalition's name, "Together," is very
fitting, as it has brought together political parties and political
leaders with very different styles and political goals. Vuk Draskovic,
the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), while an
outspoken opponent of the war, is a Serbian nationlist; Zoran
Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, has made use of
nationalism but has a more moderate approach; and the Civic Alliance
which has the most progressive politics is led by Vesna
Pesic, former Director of the Center for Antiwar Action.
The common denominator is the very specific goal of removing
Milosevic and his party from their powerful position in Yugoslavian
politics. Beyond that, it shares a commitment to moving
the country away from the single-party way of thinking that was
part of the Communist system, toward a multi-party, participatory
democracy. Many intellectuals and activists voted for Zajedno
because it was the only reasonable option, but most of them were
not too happy about it. Djindjic has been portrayed in the
international media as the key leader of Zajedno and the
protests, probably because he fits a Western media image, having
left Yugoslavia as a dissident student in the '70's and studying
and living in Germany for many years. However, it is Vuk
Draskovic and his Serb nationalist rhetoric which attracts the
largest following to the coalition.
The first protest took place in Nis on 19 November, when the
annulment of the electon was still an unconfirmed rumor. It
attracted 20,000 people, 20% of the population. Local activists
reported that there was a large police presence, including police
from other parts of Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska.
The first protest in Belgrade took place on 21 November when it
became clear that even the Belgrade election results were
threatened. After gathering in the central square, the crowd of
50,000 marched past the City Council building to a planned rally
near the Parliament. But because the police had confiscated
three sound systems, the rally was delayed, and the marchers
moved through the streets in a large circle, returning to the
center of town where they were addressed from a working sound
system at Zajedno headquarters. This then has become a daily
ritual, with the numbers growing larger with each passing day.
Protesters gather at 3 every afternoon in front of the Zajedno
office with whistles, horns, pipes, bells, pots and pans, and
even empty beer cans, filled with beans to rattle. After one or
two short speeches they start walking. The routes differ slightly
each day, but usually they pass by the City Council, Milosevic's
presidential office, the state television and the state-owned
newspapers "Politika" or "Borba". At each of
these places people whistle and shout against the institution,
chanting "ne damo pobedu"(we won't give in), "bando
crvena" (red gang), or "lopovi,
lopovi" (thieves, thieves). A lot of anger and frustration gets
especially directed against the state media. There are also sites
which bring out great cheers of support and love from the crowd:
the offices of independent Radio B-92, and the apartment of an
elderly woman who is out every day on her balcony waving a flag
and cheering them on. The crowd chants "Grandma," and everyone
In the first few days, lots of eggs were thrown and also some
stones at the buildings, so that now the TV-building and also
"Politika" have broken windows and yellowish facades. Zajedno
repeated its call for nonviolence and posted people standing at
these places to discourage further attacks. In recent marches,
people have been planting candles outside "Politika".
The crowd is very mixed. While the first few days of marchers
attracted mostly young people, the participants seem to come from
all age groups and social classes. The number of young people has
grown less as the university student protests have begun (See
StudUnt Protest section). At the beginning of the march, there
are men with large SPO flags. In later marches, a truck moves
slowly at the front carrying loudspeakers, used as a platform for
Vuk Draskovic to make occasional speeches en route. Around this
wagon there are a great number of people carrying nationalistic
symbols: Yugoslavian tricolor flags, posters and banners with the
Serbian cross and the four Cyrilic S's, some even wearing
different kinds of "chetnik" (Serb nationalist) hats.
But in the middle and main body of the procession, the outspoken
nationalistic symbols fade out, giving way to signs like
"Snoopy against the Red Baron", " Watching too much
State TV makes You loose Your sight", "A "handful"
of 200.000 ...?" (referring to the state tv comment portraying
the demonstrators as a "handful of people, incidentally passing
by"). People in the march are quite friendly, there are lots
of smiles, conversations and laughter. Whistle and noisemaker duets
happen spontaneously. People tend to start up their own chants rather
than following anything coming from the sound truck.
There is no sense of latent violence and the crowds are remarkably
disciplined. There are virtually no monitors along the
route, except at key buildings as mentioned above. A handful of
traffic police keep the traffic lanes closed, but for a few days,
police stopped doing this, creating small, frustrated traffic
jams. Demonstrators spontaneously stepped in to keep the roads
clear and tried to ward off those motorists angry by the delay.
Both the bus drivers union and taxi drivers union are supporters
of Zajedno, and thus their members have adapted willingly to
At the end of every march, there is a rally with speeches from
the Party leaders and messages of support from all over the
world. After the first few days, these rallies got smaller in
size while the marches grew. This is another sign that people are
inspired to protest from their own personal motivations and not
because of party politics.
The Students' Protest
Early in the protests, Belgrade's university students began their
own protest efforts. All the faculties are on strike, there are
daily student protest marches, and students have set up email
communications with students around the world. They are very
clear about keeping their protests independent of Zajedno and the
political parties, setting their protest marches for 12 noon
every day. The Student'Protest '96 committees work day and
The students'main demand is for the forming of a commission,
which will investigate any claimed election irregularity. They
also want the replacement of both the University rector and the
students' pro-rector because both have made public speeches which
denied the protest and incriminated the demonstrators. Beyond
these demands the students are hoping for a strong social impact
together with the other demonstrations and they hope that their
own protest marches act as a motivation for people on an overall
level to take part in the demonstrations. One of their leaflets
was specifically addressed to their parents, explaining that the
students would stick it out alone but they would prefer to have
their parents join them.
The students are well organized and have prepared themselves for
possible violence from the police. Designated monitors walk in
front and along the sides and in the case of a clash with police,
participants are prepared to all sit down in the road en masse.
The protests have been very creative. After the state media
accused them of being destructive and fascist, they built a brick
wall in front of the Federal Parliament building and sprayed on
it: We are not destructing but constructing.
In Nis, in the first marches, there were high tensions from a
strong police presence, including some with automatic weapons and
riot control equipment. But the police have been largely absent
from the protests in Belgrade, and there have been no police
incidents. However, according to independent newspapers, 32
persons have been arrested and are accused of damaging public
property. On Sunday, 1 December, state TV broadcast a speech by
the president of the Federal Parliament, who called the
demonstrators fascists and warned that police would no longer
tolerate these demonstrations for reasons of security to both
traffic and buildings. The warning had an opposite effect: An
estimated 80.000 people were on the street the next day, in spite
of heavy snow. Apart from a few policemen regulating the traffic
there were no police to be seen, but we were told, that about
2.000 special police sealed off the way to Milosevic's villa.
There are sympathizers among the police. The independent
newspaper, Nasa Borba, printed a letter of support from 65 police
to protesters in the city of Kraljevo, reassuring their
fellow citizens, that they would not go against them but rather
protect them from other police of a different mind, especially
those from other towns.
While there has been a great amount of international media
coverage of the protests, the Belgrade media coverage has been
small. This includes two indpendent daily newspapers, "Nasa
Borba" and "Demokratija", and independent radio stations,
Radio B92 and the student radio Index. The radio stations were jammed
for several days and were finally shut down. Although their
signals only reached a small geographical range, this elimination
of independent radio brought out a new surge in demonstrators:
the following day, there were 200.000 marchers. The government
retracted from B92's cancellation the next day.
The two newspapers have been reporting widely on mass demonstrations
in other towns of Yugoslavia as well as Belgrade.
"Demokratija" is a new creation, published by journalists who
left another independent daily "Blic", after its Austrian owner
Peter Koelbl wrote a public letter stating that the demonstrators
were not respecting democracy. Until that point "Blic" had been
covering the demonstrations extensively, with an increase in
circulation from 30.000 to 200.000, but Koelbl was apparently
under pressure to protect his investments. "Demokratija"
is being backed by the Democratic party and selling well.
Belgrade activists in local NGOs who Balkan Peace Team spoke with
expect very little from Zajedno except for a change from the
Milosevic regime. Many consider the coalition quite dubious and
unreliable, and with nationalistic tendencies in each of the
member party leaders, either for real or out of temporary
Activists have a variety of assessments regarding the protests.
Members from Women in Black clearly say that they are not
supporting Zajedno, but they take part in the demonstration
each and every day, because they see them as a hopeful sign that
people have lost their fright of speaking out, particularly after
the large demonstrations in 1991 and 1992 which were crushed by
government tanks and ended in violence and death. They hope for a
change. The Women in Black are worried about a lack of concept
and strategy in the Zajedno's handling of the demonstrations.
Women in Black have been creating and distributing leaflets at
every march with suggestions what to do in a case of violence
and how to apply nonviolent resistance. Each leaflet contains 5
suggestions derived from Gene Sharpe's list of 200+ forms of
nonviolent action. WiB members have also offered their ideas to
the striking students and Jelena Santic from Group 484 has been
speaking at daily student forums.
Other activists have taken a more cynical perspective, choosing
to stay away from something they see as a "walking Zajedno-rally"
or attending only on those occasions when it seemed important to
stand up to the police threats. Feminist activists have added to
the critique, pointing out how strongly the demonstrations are
characterized by nationalist male chauvinists.
The Story Continues
As this report is being prepared, developments are under constant
change. Cracks are begining to show in the government's
position. Five Supreme Court judges wrote a public letter
distancing themselves from the Supreme Court decision annulling
the local elections, and 90 more justices expressed their
solidarity with this stand. The SPS leader in Nis has resigned,
presumably under pressure from Milosevic, as has the Minister of
Information and Communication. Predictions have it that some kind
of negotiated solution needs to be found that allows the original
election results to stand and allows Milosevic to save face.
Opposition leaders say that the local elections are their only
immediate goal, that their efforts to unseat Milosevic will
continue in the Federal elections next year.
But whatever the practical results, democracy and civil society
have made giant steps in Yugoslavia in the past three weeks. It
is hoped and assumed by many who live here that the country will
never be the same.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 97 12:26:42 CST
From: rich%pencil@VM.MARIST.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Protests in Belgrade and the Rest of Former Yugoslavia
January 23, 1996
This report covers the protests and other political developments
in Yugoslavia since December 9, 1996. It picks up where
our first report left off, after the annulment of local election
results in Serbia and the subsequent public protests. The
first report is available from the Balkan Peace Team International
Office in Minden, Germany, Email:
The Story Continues
There has been no resolution to the conflict in Yugoslavia
over the annulment of last November's local election results
in the 14 cities where the opposition coalition won. In the
face of international pressure and public protests, President
Milosevic and the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) have
made indications that they might finally recognize the Zajedno
coalition's victories, but all the while they have taken
other steps to legally deny the results and to put an end to
all demonstrations. Both Zajedno and the striking university
students have continued their protests in Belgrade and 40
other cities, as well as their efforts through legal and
international channels to democratize the country.
The Struggle for the Votes
When the 17 November election results were annulled, control
of 14 city assemblies was retained by SPS. Zajedno challenged
the annulments before local and federal election commissions,
and in the courts. The first challenges met with failure, but
this has been followed by appeal court decisions and election
commission reconsideration in their favor. The first big break
came in the town of Nis, on 17 December when a local court
ordered the Nis election commission to review its original
annulment. By January 9, even the national Ministry of Justice
publicly acknowledged that Zajedno had won in Nis.
In other cities, including Belgrade, however, the legal battles
have been like a tennis match, with the courts and then
the election commissions canceling out each others'previous
decisions. On January 14, OMRI reported that the local election
commissions agreed to the Zajedno victories in 14 cities.
International media predicted that Milosevic might use this
occasion to "back down". But the next day, SPS appealed the
decisions, including the victory in Nis, and the cases will
work their way to the Supreme Court.
The legal maneuvers by courts and commissions are confusing
because the real decisions are being made at the political
level. State bodies like the courts and the election commissions
are largely made up of SPS members; it is their political
wishes which will dominate. One local legal observer told
BPT-B that "in every committee, you will find just enough SPS
members to maintain control of its decisions. So it LOOKS like
democracy but this is really a one party state." When
international media reported in late December and early January,
that Milosevic was offering to recognize Zajedno wins in a few
cities, what this means is that the appropriate courts and
commissions would officially make such decisions. In response
to these rumors of compromise, Zajedno publicly rejected all
partial offers and repeated its demand for all the annulled
election results to be returned.
A delegation from the Office of Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) arrived in Belgrade in late December to review
the election results at the invitation of the Serbian government.
The delegation was headed by Felipe Gonzales, former
President of Spain. Members met with all parties to the conflict,
reviewed the reports from local election commission
reports, and concluded that Zajedno won in the 14 contested
cities. They called on the Milosevic regime to acknowledge the
17 November results but the OSCE has no power of enforcement.
In mid-December, SPS began holding public support demonstrations
in small central Serbian towns. Nasa Borba and other independent
media referred to them as "counter demonstrations."
Then SPS announced plans for a large counter demonstration on 24
December in Belgrade, predicting up to one million participants.
On the given day, the number was closer to
40,000, mostly peasants and workers from rural areas who had
been provided with free transportation and instructed to carry
SPS banners and signs. How voluntary their participation was
is unclear; there were reports on Radio B-92 that workers got
off the night shift at their factories and were put on buses
headed for Belgrade. They arrived in Belgrade with no idea
that there were daily protest marches against Milosevic taking
The counter demonstration was scheduled for 3 pm, the same
time as the opposition's daily protest march, and it was set
to take place on the same street where the marchers regularly
gather. Later, international leaders and local clergy accused
Milosevic of purposely manipulating the day's events in this
way to produce physical conflict among the two sets of protesters.
Besides the two sets of demonstrators, 20,000 police
militia were present, creating a cordon between the smaller
Milosevic contingent and 300,000 opposition protesters. For
all the chaos, the day's violence amounted to a few fist
fights between protesters, two people hurt by gunshots,
clubbings of some protesters by the police, and one death. The
greatest tragedy took place in the evening when a teacher,
Pedrag Starcevic, returned from the protests and was beaten to
death by a group of SPS supporters.
Before 24 December, the police on the streets during the
protest marches were traffic police. But after the counter
demonstration, the government banned street protests in
Belgrade completely and placed police militia in full riot gear
on the streets. At times, there have been as many as 2500
present, mostly from other cities in Serbia, Kosov@ and
Vojvodina. The police are Milosevic's primary ally when it
comes to maintaining control of the country. The Yugoslavian
National Army leadership has been in conflict with him for
many years and some units were reported to have sent a letter
of support to the striking students. In a meeting with the
students army commander General Perisic stated, that unlike
1991 the army would keep out of domestic political affairs.
While the police have beaten protesters with their batons,
police attacks have largely been individual incidents, often
happening when police feel they are being taunted. In response
to the demonstrators' friendly treatment, the police have, for
the most part, been approachable, willing to speak to protesters
and have their pictures taken. BPT-B heard one demonstrator ask
a policeman if he and his comrades would use
violence against the nonviolent protesters if they ordered to.
He replied," I wouldn't be too sure about that".
BPT-B observed undercover police using clubs on demonstrators.
This was caught on camera as well and their pictures published
in the independent press, along with their names.
On 3 December, the government ordered the closing of Radio B-92 for
not having a proper broadcasting license. This small
independent Belgrade station, with only 1 kilometer of broadcasting
range and 56,000 listeners, became a symbol in Yugoslavia
and around the world for those who value an independent
media. The protests and pressures on Milosevic to take back
the order were strong and two days later, the government
allowed the station to broadcast. Radio Television Serbia
(RTS) reported to the Serbian public that the problem was a
technical one, a wire at the transformer that had gotten wet.
A few days later, Radio B-92 signed a license contract with
The public's anger at the dishonest reporting on state-controlled
RTS made the television station a central focus for
the protest marches. A new form of protest began in January.
)From 7:30 until 8 in the evening, when the news is broadcast,
people go to their windows and make as much noise as possible
with pots and pans, bells, whistles. This action to "drown out
the lies", now takes place simultaneously in cities throughout
There have been over 60 days of protests, including 30 days
when marches in Belgrade have been banned and the streets are
cordoned off by police. During this time, protesters have useda wide
variety of nonviolent tactics.These have not been based
in any one specific, clearly defined nonviolent strategy. They
arise, rather, from an atmosphere among the protesters of
determined joy. People have channeled their anger at the state
into humor and celebration, creating a culture of resistance
that the police and the government have not been able to
The list below summarizes the kinds of actions used throughout
former Yugoslavia. The methods used in Belgrade are covered
more extensively since this is where BPT-B regularly monitors
the events, but a number of these tactics began in other cities
and were later picked up by the Belgrade protesters.
Nonviolent Action Used in the Protests in Yugoslavia
Marches often follow a regular route, passing by key buildings
which symbolize the power of the regime. March routes will
also pass through different neighborhoods so that the protest
message can reach new people.
- Marches to Belgrade.
Student protesters from other cities have conducted long walks
to Belgrade to link the protests and build awareness in the
towns they pass through. One group made the journey by bicycle.
Protesters from Belgrade suburbs have marched into the
city together to attend the demonstrations.
- Student Strikes.
Students at several universities in Yugoslavia have gone on
strike. They have been joined by a growing number of their
professors. There have also been strikes at gymnasiums in
Belgrade and secondary and primary schools in Vojvodina.
- Theater Performance Cancellations.
Performances at cultural events have been canceled. Statements
are read out loud to the audience from the striking cast
People use everything: whistles, horns, bells, sirens, pots
and pans. When the marchers stop traffic, many motorists honk
their horns, not out of frustration over the traffic jam, but
in support of the demonstrators.
These are the most common noisemakers in the protests, often
used in a call-and-response cadence. They are also used by
individuals to make a quick "statement" while walking down the
street. A whistle hanging around the neck is a sign of identification,
much like a protest button.
During the marches, the most common chants are "Bando Crveno"
(Red Band); "Lopovi" (Thieves); "Let's attack all
- Blinking Lights
When the marches pass by their homes and offices, people blink
their houselights or flashlights. This sign of support originated
in Nis and spread to other cities. People living at
street level put candles in their windows.
Supporters drop confetti on the marchers as they pass. Radio
B-92 regularly showers the protesters with leaflets. On one
occasion, hundreds of old Serbian dinar notes from the days of
hyperinflation rained down on the protesters.
People carry all kinds of flags: Serbian national flags,
political party flags, car racing flags, flags from other
countries, the gay pride rainbow flag, American Civil War
flags, skull and crossbones flags, and scarves tied to sticks.
Supporters wave flags from the windows as the marchers pass
by. While Serbian national flags are the most common, the
main idea seems to be to have any kind of flag. One local
activist BPT-B, "People just bring whatever they had hanging
on their walls."
Posters are mostly home made, often with humorous messages,
such as " Snoopy Against the Red Baron" and "Our
Leaders Are Deaf, Our Leaders Are Blind, But We Care".
Two large satirical puppets were created to march in the
Belgrade protests. One depicting Milosevic's wife, Mira
Markovic, in feudal armor, was designed by Belgrade University
art students. The other, also created and carried by an art
student, is of Milosevic in prison clothes. It attracted wide
popular attention and its creator was picked up by the police
one night and badly beaten. He remains under medical care.
- Badges and Paraphernalia
Entrepreneurs walk the streets where protesters gather,
selling badges; whistles and horns; postcards photos of the mass
demonstrations with the slogan "Greetings from Belgrade"; and
cardboard eyeglasses made to look like eggs--an weapon used
against the state buildings.
- Decontamination Actions
Students in Belgrade staged a cleaning action of the location
where the Milosevic regime organized its counter demonstration.
They washed the building where a state committee met and
turned down their demand to oust the University Rector and
instead, reconfirmed his appointment.
- The Brick Wall
Students built a brick wall in front of the Parliament Building
after they were accused of being destructive. They wanted
to show symbolically that they were trying to be constructive.
- Statements from Professional Organizations.
Five Supreme Court judges signed a letter of protest when the
Yugoslavian Supreme Court decided in favor of annulling the
elections. They were then followed by colleagues throughout
the country. The prestigious Serbian Writers Union wrote a
letter to Milosevic, asking that he honor the 17 November
- Noise To Drown Out the News
As reported above, from 7:30-8pm every evening, during the
evening news on the state television channel, people go to
their windows and make all the noise they can. Pedestrians
blow their whistles cars honk their horns. Awards are given to
the noisiest streets.
- Jamming the Phone Lines
People make nonstop telephone calls to state institutions to
completely clog up the telephone lines and make the
government's work impossible. A list of state telephone numbers
was placed in the independent daily newspaper, assigning
different sets of numbers to people living in certain neighborhoods.
When the regime banned street protests in Belgrade, saying
that they disrupted auto traffic, and placed large numbers of
police militia on the streets to enforce the ban, many new
nonviolent protest methods were designed:
In some instances when cordons of the police pushed at the
crowds to move, they immediately sat down in the road. When
this took place during an all-night student vigil, the students
were joined by an Orthodox priest who sat down right in
front of the police cordon and began to pray.
- Funeral March
Protesters held a silent funeral march from the cemetery in
honor of a teacher killed by SPS supporters.
- Holiday Celebrations
During the Christmas and New Years holidays, the opposition
and the students sponsored large street parties. Because of
their celebratory nature and the large numbers they attracted,
the police decided not to keep the streets clear that night.
People used the occasion to go promenading on all the streets
in the city center, as if to make a statement, "These streets
belong to us."
- Marching in Circles
Protesters march in circles on the pedestrian malls. Or they
march in small circles right in front of the police cordons.
- The Green Man
Protesters wait on the sidewalk until the "green man" light
appears at the crosswalks. Then everyone runs into the crosswalks
for a few frenzied minutes of dancing and cheering. When
the light turns red again, they quickly return to the sidewalks.
- Neighborhood Marches
Protesters meet in their neighborhoods at 8 pm and weave
through the streets nearby, making noise and chanting slogans.
With the police cordons concentrated in the center of the
city, they have been unable to block all these small marches.
However, when some of these small marches have met up with the
police, protesters have been beaten.
- Dog Walking
People brought their dogs to the protest one day, claiming
that they were just out to walk their pets that day.
- Traffic Jams
People brought their cars to the center of the city, creating
major traffic jams and honking their horns. This chaos allowed
the marchers to walk down the streets without being accused of
- Photo Opportunity
Protesters pose in front of the police cordons for dramatic
photos, sometimes asking police to pose with them.
- Entertaining the Troops
Students stage skits of fights between protesters and demonstrators
and read out loud to them from Dostoevski. Protesters stop and speak
with the police, bring them flowers and candy, kiss them on the cheeks,
and draw hearts and flowers on their plastic shields. On one day,
protesters wore their own "uniforms": medical coats,
fire-fighting outfits, graduation robes to match the police's riot
gear. In one city, there is a daily contest where protesters vote for
the "most beautiful policeman."
There are many signs during the protests that students play a
special role in Serbian society. During the student marches,
people on the sidewalks would stop to applaud and residents
would applaud from the windows, people who did not show any
other signs of identifying with the opposition. Regular protesters
rarely joined the student marches; local activists
explained that there was an understanding that this event
belonged to the students and their professors. When students
from Nis walked for 48 hours to Belgrade, Milosevic granted a
meeting with them, although he had been denying any contact
with the protesters up to that point.
Student organizers explained that students are seen as the
country's future leaders, and even if their ideas are not well
understood, they are respected and admired. This is particularly
true in the towns and rural areas.
The student protest organizers have continued to maintain
independence from the Zajedno coalition. Their organization is
highly structured and disciplined, but activists outside the
structure have found that this spills over at times into a
paranoid suspicion of all strangers. Despite this, the special
mark of the student protests has been humor and spontaneous
creativity, and extensive use of the internet to build up
international support. Besides the protest actions, students
in numerous faculties have been engaged in seminars and forums
on political topics related to democracy and social change.
Out of this new longer range projects have developed, such as
the Organization for the Development of Democracy in the
The Patriarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church made no public
statements during the first weeks of the election crisis.
Differing views on the elections and the protests pushed the
Patriarch to eventually call for a two-day Synod on the 2nd
and 3rd of January. At that meeting, the Church developed a
united stand in support of the return of the November 17
election results. The Church's interests are not tied to the
Milosevic regime. Greater democracy would give them more freedom
to operate and to regain some of their property lost
during the Tito era. After the Synod, the highest church
leadership participated in a special Serbian Christmas march
and service on 6 January. In late January, the Patriarch
visited the students during a 3-day nonstop street protest.
Troubles for the Yugoslavian economy continue despite the
lifting of sanctions. This period of protest and unrest has
increased the crisis. It is reported that only 20 % is employed.
While others are working in black market enterprises,
the majority of the labor force is on forced vacations or
unemployed. In mid January, the state had to print more money
to cover end-of-the-year pensions. The daily cost for the
police presence in Belgrade is reported to cost 1 million DEM
a day. On 13 January, the black market exchange rate began to
jump from 3.8 dinar to 5 dinar per DEM. There were renewed
fears of hyper-inflation, though the dinar fell back to 4.0
dinar per DEM by the end of the month. The independent publications,
Nasa Borba and Vreme, however, continue to predict
imminent economic crisis.
Developments in Kosova
In the course of the protests, BPT-B asked its Albanian contacts
in Kosova how they viewed the events. In the first
weeks, we found it was not considered important. With the
exception of journalists at the independent, Koha, people were
curious, but did not see the protests influencing their struggles
at home. Kosov@ political interest has focused instead on
new internal developments such as Adam Demaqi's plans to run
against Ibrahim Rugova for the Presidency of the parallel
Kosov@ Albanian Parliament.
As the protests began to threaten Milosevic's control, however,
Kosova Albanians began to consider what options this
produced for their independence drive. In January, 600 Albanian
students at the parallel university signed a letter to
President Rugova demanding that he take advantage of
Milosevic's weakness and make a more direct demand for Kosova
In December, hundreds of students at the Serbian university
staged a protest in support of the Belgrade students. Zajedno
supporters in the Kosov@ Serbian community also began to meet
and hold public protest gatherings in Prishtina. Most recently,
opposition gatherings have also taken place in more rural
areas. Serbian opposition protesters in Kosov@ are very isolated,
caught between the dominant Serbian parties, SPS and
Serbian Radical Party (SRS) on one side, and the Albanian
majority population on the other. Their demonstrations are
photographed by state security and their leaders receive
threatening telephone calls. They have no contact with Kosova
Albanian political organizations.
The protests have brought an exchange of supportive statements
between the Albanian leadership and Serbian opposition politicians.
Adam Demaqi welcomed the movement towards democracy in
Serbia. When an Albanian teacher, Feriz Blakori, was tortured
and killed in Prishtina in December, Vuk Draskovic called for
a moment of silence at the Belgrade protest rally.
However, the link is a weak one and political observers worry
that it will break quickly if and when Milosevic plays the
"Kosova card." The predictions vary, but in late January,
comments from Zajedno leaders and international press raised
the possibility that Milosevic might be fomenting violent
confrontation in Kosov@, thus creating a crisis which cancels
out the importance of the protests or the annulled elections.
This would also give him the option to declare martial law and
get the protesters off the streets. The car bomb attack on the
Rector of the Serbian University in Prishtina heightened fears
of this development; some speakers proposed that the Kosova
Liberation Army which took responsibility is actually a front
for JUL, the party of Milosevic's wife.
As this report is being completed, the protests in FRY are
continuing. Belgrade students are in their fifth day of non-stop
protest in the city center. In Kragujevac on 23 January,
protesters clashed violently with police over control of the
local television station and created a blockade on the highway
to stop buses of local police as they returned from their
duties at the protests in Belgrade. International observers
comment that Milosevic seems to be biding his time in the
hopes that the protests may dwindle.
Balkan Peace Team-Belgrade
11000 Belgrade, FRY