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Dealing wite the past

Live from Belgrade – following the arrest of Ratko Mladic

Today around 18:00 about a hundred of people “gathered”, in a somehow hidden way, at the Square of the Republic expecting what is going to happen. Earlier  today on several new  Facebook pages established as a support to, now arrested, war crimes inductee Mladic,  was unofficially mentioned several times that people will gather at 18:00 without explicitly saying where. At the same time, the Director of the police officially declared  any gathering of citizens in a town as being prohibited, while presence of the police in the city highly increased and was strengthened with the gendarmerie at crucial points. Some of the present citizens were standing aside commenting and expecting to see who is going to start protesting first, while others sat at nearby cafés too obviously trying to mind their own business while the ends of their eyes were busy looking around and trying not to miss a single detail at the Square. A small group of approximately 40 to 50 men, some of who wore T-shirts printed with national and orthodox simbols or with  a can of beer in their hands, started singing and shouting various paroles starting with “We will not give Mladic, we’ll give you Tadic (“Ne damo vam Mladića, daćemo vam Tadića”), “Save Serbia and kill yourself Tadic” (“Spasi Srbiju I ubij se Borise”) and “Knife wire, Srebrenica” (Nož, žica, Srebrenica). The entire “singing opus” was completed with the pathetic outpouring of emotions towards Serbian flag and, apparently inevitable, songs devoted to Chetnik commander Draza Mihailovic (see video  here and here).

Police that stood aside for a while, elegantly and without any use of force, discharge these “protesters” firstly towards famous Belgrade pedestrian zone, and then beyond it. With this the protest was ended for a while. Police also reacted on two  latter occasions (around 19:00 and 22:00) when a smaller groups of young protestors lit the torch at the Republic Square. Increased police presence is still noticeable around the Serbian government building, Parliament of Serbia, Belgrade City Assembly, the Presidency of Serbia and the building of Radio and Television of Serbia.
However, what deserves to be mentioned are those people of various ages who were minding their own business in cafés.  Some of them would occasionally get from their seats in the first row in order to make a picture or memorize “the moment” with their mobile cameras while others, mostly middle aged women emotionally shouted at the police: “Do not touch the Serbian children”.

Others would from time to time join the group of the protestors in the middle of the Square and then returned to the “safety” of their “casual-afternoon-coffee seats”.  However, two persons were particularly interesting. One of them is a lady in her early fifties who had a badge with the image of Vojislav Seselj clumsily hidden or cleverly unveiled bellow her loosely buttoned sweater. This lady was visibly upset and sporadically walking towards and away from the protesters and police. At certain point she approached another woman saying to her: “There is more police than protestors, they will crash them. There is no one who can lead these kids; they don’t even know that gathering is prohibited. There is no one who can lead them,who to fight for when everything is dead!”

The other person, with whom I am going to finish today’s posting, is a young man of some thirty years who was sitting in a caffé all alone. Asked by a lady (who took an active part in the protest by swearing from her chair in one of the cafés)  why is he  not joining others who defy police, this  man said quietly, “We are weak”.

Yes, that is what he said. And I cannot add anything else but “it was a time for you guys to be weak”! Almost eleven years since the gloriously announced democratic reforms and sixteen years after the Dayton agreement it is a high time for Serbia and the rest of the region to start walking towards the better future. Although Serbian Radical Party earlier today announced peaceful citizens’ protests and an opinion poll few days ago showed that 51 per cent of Serbia’s citizens is against Mladic’s arrest, I do not think that there is a political party or leader who would be able to make a political profit from organizing the protests similar to those when Radovan Karadzic was arrested.

Finally! But that does not mean that work on the recent past is done, on the contrary: it has yet to begin!

Two persons injured during the protests in Novi Sad

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About Sladjana Lazic

I am a PhD student of Political Science manly focused on dealing with the past and nationalism, but with great interest in new media and changes of journalistic practices (and media) triggered with the expansion of Internet and ICTs

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