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Protests in Serbia Archive
Serbian Renewal Movement: News of Feb. 3

3rd February, 1997

Seventy fifth day of the protest in Belgrade

Instead of gathering on the main city square, as previously, the citizens of Belgrade gathered yesterday on two sides of the Branko's bridge, which connects old and new parts of Belgrade. Between those people stood cordons comprising several thousand policemen. The police, in such a way, prevented crowds of citizens lead by Vuk Draskovic, from joining the people on the main city square lead by Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic.

The crowds of citizens that walked from the Community of Novi Beograd to the Community of Stari grad, lead by Vuk Draskovic, were awaited at the beginning of Branko bridge by the police cordon. In that way the people coming from Novi Beograd, Zemun and surrounding regions could not reach the main city square, where the 75th protest meeting of the coalition Zajedno was scheduled.

One of the head officers from the cordon warned the gathered citizens to split up, for the meeting was allegedly illegal. "If you don't do so", he announced, "the police will act according upon orders, and legal actions against the organizers of the demonstrations will be taken".

The citizens, however, did not split up, but stood peacefully in front of the police.

Meanwhile two crowds lead by Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic walked around the old parts of the city. When they found out that the third crowd was blocked on the other side of the river Sava, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic diverted the citizens toward the bridge to "help the blocked ones". After not more than ten minutes, on both sides of Branko's bridge was the same site: numerous anti-riot police cordons with shields and vizors on their helmets, and tens of thousands of citizens.

On Novi Beograd side of the bridge Vuk Draskovic spoke to the citizens: "On this spot, where Milosevic placed the barricades, Hitler set boundaries of Serbia back in 1941. Does it mean that Vojvodina is no longer part of Serbia", asked Draskovic.

" We, the citizens and the police, are the victims of madness of two madmen who seek reasons for bloodshed, in order for the people to forget the problems concerning the elections", said Draskovic, also asking the citizens to stay calm, forbidding any contact, including a verbal one, with the police.

Before the cordon on Novi Beograd side of the bridge stood the famous writer Dusan Kovacevic. He called the blockade " an occupation of Serbia" and estimated that the intention of the government is to provoke an incident and then introduce state of emergency and start arresting. "After this comes a concentration camp", said Kovacevic.

Unfortunately, Kovacevic's fears have soon become true. After 11.30 pm the police started a synchronized intervention on both sides of the bridge. The police started a brutal action precisely at the moment when Vuk Draskovic reached the other side of the river, using the side crossing, and ordered the surrounded citizens to step back and withdraw. After that most of the citizens obeyed Vuk's order. The police started off by pushing the citizens away, using the truncheons, tear-gas and water cannons as well. The citizens started panicking, because heavily armed policemen stopped at nothing. A real man-hunt started. While the citizens were retreating, the police brutally used the force upon them, not caring who or where they hit them.

The women, the elderly and the young people were heavily beaten with batons without any reason whatsoever. The police had to run fast to catch up with the people and hit them as they tried to escape from the scene or while lying on the ground. The number of heavily wounded rose by the hour. The medical staff of Emergency units did not have enough time to help everyone. The leaders of the coalition Zajedno Vuk Draskovic and Vesna Pesic found themselves in the way of the police and were beaten as well. Actor and official speaker of the program Ljubivoje Tadic was badly beaten up. One of the injured was the president of the Vracar Municipality and Member of the Serbian Parliament, Nebojsa Atanackovic. Many reporters were victims of this brutality: the reporter of the Radio B-92, the journalist of the "Blic" and the crew of BK television were beaten. CNN's and BK's cameras were broken. The police burst into the hall of Faculty of Philosophy and attacked the students, whose reaction to that was quick and sharp, and the students literally kicked out the policemen.

In a word, last night on the streets of Belgrade, batterers of Slobodan Milosevic went wild. To them, it seems, everything was allowed.

Milosevic forced the police terror and tyrannical regime upon Serbia.

Vuk Draskovic, president of the Serbian Renewal Movement held a special press conference regarding the last night's events.

"Since last night, Milosevic introduced police terror into Serbia" said Vuk Draskovic, at the beginning of his speech and added that the police, without any reason, attacked the people who went for a peaceful walk around town last night. With the intention to prevent the citizens from crossing over Branko bridge, large police forces used batons and water cannons. The president of Civic Alliance of Serbia, Vesna Pesic, told the gathered citizens to sit down facing the cordons at once, but the police beat them anyway.

The president of SRM, Vuk Draskovic, commenting on the police intervention last night, said that even in 1968, during the first students protest, the police did not enter the faculties nor did they arrest the students, and Milosevic's police had done just that the night before. They broke into the faculties, beat up the students and arrested them.

"In the midst of last night's horror, I gave an emotional statement- that there will be no more Ghandi-like resistance to violence, but instead the people have the right to defend themselves - if Milosevic's hoodlums attack again. However, that is not what I meant. On the contrary, this is just a beginning of great, Ghandi-like resistance. I expect that all the schools, universities, workers, public transportation will go on strike - all the people who value their dignity. I also think that the Army cannot sit around, fiddling their thumbs, and calmly watch the crime being committed on citizens of Serbia", said the leader of SRM, Vuk Draskovic. "The complete civil disobedience is the only answer", concluded Draskovic.

A general strike started in Nis today because of the brutal police assaults on citizens of Belgrade. All primary and secondary schools went on strike, as well as the University of Nis and the Bar of Nis. The University of Nis professors formed a Protest Committee.

Rector of the University of Nis, professor Branimir Djordjevic, and the Protest Committee issued a proclamation, condemning the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic and the Government of Serbia for brutal intrusion into the Faculty of Philosophy, and beating up the students and citizens of Belgrade. They also demand Milosevic's resignation and demanded the election results of the second round of the local elections be recognized.

"By this proclamation we invite all Universities in Serbia and all the citizens of Serbia to join us in the general strike and we declare that we are against dictatorship and civil war, but we stand up for the respecting of the democratic principles", declared the newly formed Nis's Protest Committee.

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