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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Anti-Milosevic Protesters March

By Aleksandar Vasovic
(c) The Associated Press

UZICE, Yugoslavia (AP) - Thousands of angry Serbs rallied in this central Serbian town Tuesday to demand that President Slobodan Milosevic resign, and police in another Serb town clashed with a similar crowd of anti-government protesters. "Leave, Slobo, leave!" the crowd chanted, using Milosevic's nickname. They cheered the leaders of Serbia's democratic opposition, who organized the protest in Uzice, a town 120 miles southwest of Belgrade.

"We must go to the end so that Serbia could have a new start. Every day ... we must be in all the streets and stay until he (Milosevic) leaves," Democratic Party head Zoran Djindjic told the estimated 6,000 people who braved the sweltering heat.

The organizers from the Alliance for Change - the leading umbrella group of Serbia's pro-democracy, anti-Milosevic parties - ignored a police warning to call off the protest in downtown Uzice. However, no substantial police presence was visible during the rally.

It was the latest of several protests in Serbian towns calling for the ouster of the autocratic president.

A few thousand people took to the streets in the southern Serbian town of Leskovac for the second day Tuesday, demanding the resignation of a local governor loyal to Milosevic.

The protesters clashed with the police when they approached a police station where the activist who called for Monday's rally was being held.

Ivan Novkovic, an employee in a local TV station, became an instant celebrity when he interrupted the station's programming last week to call for a rally against the allegedly corrupt local governor. After 20,000 people took to the streets Monday in Leskovac, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Novkovic's individual outcry - not organized by any opposition party - was seen by some as a sign of the increasingly bold discontent with Milosevic for his hard-line policies that led to NATO airstrikes and the virtual loss of Serbia's Kosovo province.

"Serbia has risen, free of fear. Leskovac is an example. Novkovic is better than Milosevic because he is a brave man," said Goran Svilanovic, an Alliance leader at the Uzice rally.

A local priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church also came to express support for the protest in Uzice. In a break from tradition, the Church recently openly demanded Milosevic's resignation.

Another opposition activist, Velimir Ilic, called on the police and army to join the people's protest. Ilic became a major dissident during the NATO bombing by blaming the government for the destruction.

But Milosevic loyalists have a long record of successfully outmaneuvering Yugoslavia's often divided opposition. Leaflets blasting the opposition as allies of NATO were thrown on the crowd in Uzice from a nearby skyscraper.

In another blow to Milosevic, Serbia's main opposition leader rebuffed the president's attempts to draw him into his coalition in order to boost support for his government.

Vuk Draskovic, head of the Serbian Renewal Movement Party, said Tuesday he would not join a government led by the pro-Milosevic premier, Momir Bulatovic. He instead demanded a new government led by the pro-Western leader of Yugoslavia's smaller republic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

Also Tuesday, the city council of Novi Sad, the second-largest city in Yugoslavia that was heavily damaged during the 78-day NATO campaign, joined the chorus demanding Milosevic's resignation, the private Beta news agency reported.

Source: BalkanPeaceNetwork

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