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Protests in Serbia Archive
Odraz B92 Daily News Service

    ODRAZ B92, Belgrade                             Daily News Service
    Odraz B92 vesti (by 10 PM), January 5, 1997

    e-mail: beograd@siicom.com      URL: http://www.siicom.com/odrazb/
            odrazb92@b92.opennet.org     http://www.siicom.com/b92/
    All texts are Copyright 1997 Radio B92. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    NEWS BY 10 PM


    Called on by the leaders of the coalition Zajedno, thousands of
    drivers blocked the traffic in central Belgrade, causing
    unprecedented traffic jams and a complete gridlock with their cars
    today. This blockade enabled protesters to take to the streets
    once again, walking among the cars. For two weeks now, special
    police forces have been preventing the protesters from walking the
    streets, on the pretext of the authorities' concern with the flow
    of traffic. Today the Yugoslav capital experienced a total
    collapse of its traffic system as thousands upon thousands of cars
    flooded downtown Belgrade. The cars were full of people with
    whistles, trumpets and various hand-made instruments which they
    used to greet the passers-by. Many cars abruptly and unaccountably
    ``broke down,'' and the drivers lifted their bonnets, took off
    their wheels or parked their cars in the middle of the road.
    Although Belgraders did their best to call the traffic police, no
    officer was in sight, nor were there any special police units to
    be found. Members of the special police forces did not even get
    out of their buses parked in front of the Federal Parliament.

    More of this kind of impromptu, symbolic street theater could also
    be seen here and there, as the leaders of the coalition Zajedno --
    Vesna Pesic, Zoran Djindjic and Vuk Draskovic -- strolled among
    the cars, often being called by drivers to help with ``engine
    breakdowns,'' and when all car troubles disappeared almost
    immediately, were cheered by the crowds.

    Eventually, as the enormous crowd reached the Republic Square,
    some in their cars and others on foot, a hastily improvised rally
    was held once again. On this, the 47th day of protests, leaders of
    Zajedno accused Milosevic of failing to ensure normal traffic
    conditions for countless thousands of Belgraders today, and that
    despite the 20,000 members of the special police units he has
    brought to the capital expressly for this purpose.

    Leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, said:
    ``Thousands of buses, cars, trucks and motorbikes in all the
    cities of Serbia will be in a desperate condition because of all
    sorts of problems, not least because the gas has been adulterated
    with water. We will not be able to move either in our cities or on
    our intercity roads until we liberate Serbia and create the
    conditions which will allow us to get new cars.''  Draskovic
    accused Dragan Tomic, president of the Serbian Parliament, of
    having a complete monopoly on the country's oil and gas imports
    and of adulterating them with water, ``which is why we have so
    many stalled vehicles'' on our streets, he explained. He went on
    to paint today's failure of the 20,000 members of special police
    units deployed in Belgrade to help the stranded drivers and
    maintain the flow of traffic in the Yugoslav capital as ``a state-
    produced act of sabotage carried out by the forces of chaos and

    Leader of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, said that today's
    protest was only the first step and that the next one will be the
    withholding of electricity and RTS television subscription
    payments. Serbia needs neither the UN nor NATO to slap further
    sanctions on the Milosevic regime, he said, as its citizens will
    manage it themselves. ``We are the ones who will impose sanctions
    on this regime and we are also the ones who will get rid of it,''
    Djindjic added.

    Vesna Pesic, leader of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, announced
    that the citizens will ``sleep in their cars if necessary.''  And
    if that doesn't do it, ``if these drive-by protests are banned,
    too,'' Pesic said, ``we will then camp out on the streets,
    complete with our beds, tables and chairs.''


    Here are a few of the on-the-spot interviews Belgrade drivers
    today gave to Radio B92 reporters on the scene.

    -- I am a cab driver. I'd love to get on with my job and only hope
    that the police will kindly enable me to do so today. I appeal to
    our beloved police forces to act immediately to this end. I've
    been honking for ages because nothing's moving. I've no idea
    what's causing this, is it a soccer game, perhaps?

    -- My car's stalled. I've no idea what happened...

    -- Absolutely delighted: our police have managed to regulate the
    traffic as never before.

    -- It must be a ``fascist car,'' what can I say. Made in Germany.
    [Spoof of state-media rhetoric, which has branded the protesters
    as fascists.]  I've been blaring away with my car-horn for hours
    now, to no avail. The police just aren't responding. Don't know
    what to do...

    -- We have learned from reliable sources, whose reports have been
    confirmed by numerous eyewitnesses to these events, that today the
    city police seem to be using only their whistles...  To
    Belgraders' enormous delight, of course.


    Several thousands of students and professors of the University of
    Belgrade protested today for the 44th day in a row. The protest
    crowd was addressed by many prominent Serbian actors, as well as
    by an American journalist. The students walked down the very
    center of Belgrade, making enormous noise. But the special police
    forces, who came out of their buses to blockade the adjoining
    streets, prevented them from marching outside of Knez Mihajlova,
    Belgrade's main shopping avenue and itself a pedestrian zone. The
    noise level reached its peak during the main news bulletin of the
    state-run RTS television, when countless Belgraders took to their
    windows and balconies to participate in ``Noise Is All the Rage''
    action, raising the decibel level by banging on all sorts of
    kitchen utensils. They were joined by many drivers who honked in
    response. The next student protest has been announced for


    Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and
    Cooperation in Europe, stated for today's issue of the independent
    daily Dnevni Telegraf that the ministers of the 54 member
    countries of the OSCE will examine Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan
    Milutinovic's letter to the OSCE at their next meeting on January
    7. Fleming also said that the OSCE will then also decide whether
    to send Milutinovic the data on the disputed local elections in
    Serbia which he has asked for in his letter.


    In its main news bulletin today, state-run Radio Belgrade said
    that the Serbian Orthodox Church has joined the coalition Zajedno
    ``in an attack on Serbia.''  ``Yes, you heard well. Warren
    Christopher is a small child compared with the Church,'' went one
    of the comments made by Radio Belgrade.


    Today's issue of the Russian daily Izvestia says that Russia has
    lost the battle of trying to make Belgrade its strategic ally in
    the Balkans, reports FoNet. ``Russian diplomacy has openly
    supported Milosevic, thus turning the Serbian opposition against
    Russia. Russia has now become but a scarecrow in the eyes of most
    Serbs, especially when compared with civilized Europe. Serbia is
    in the throes of an internal political crisis, and no one there
    even thinks of any friendship with Russia, neither the opposition
    nor the authorities themselves,'' said Izvestia.


    Today's issue of many French newspapers label Milutinovic's letter
    to the OSCE a ``transparent bluff.''  Liberation, France's most
    popular and highly respected left-wing daily, says that the
    regime's insistence on legal formalities is only meant to buy
    Milosevic some time and to ``exhaust the opposition through
    marathon court procedures.''  Today's Monde comments that
    ``Milosevic has stuck to his old tactics, the ones he used
    repeatedly during the war in ex-Yugoslavia.''

    The French press feels that Milosevic's attempts at manipulation
    and his use of delay tactics are so clumsy and so blatant this
    time around that they have already backfired against him.

    Prepared by: Aleksandra Scepanovic
    Edited by: Vaska Andjelkovic (Tumir)

    ODRAZ B92, Belgrade                             Daily News Service
    e-mail: beograd@siicom.com      URL: http://www.siicom.com/odrazb/
            odrazb92@b92.opennet.org     http://www.siicom.com/b92/

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