News for January 1st, 1997

The happiest, loudest and most luminescent celebration of New Year's Eve and of the spirit of freedom that has been pervading Belgrade and Serbia for over a month and a half now was held in down town Belgrade. Music had been played in Freedom Square (opposition name for Republic Square) since noon. Before midnight, famous Belgrade actors and Zajedno leaders saluted hundreds of thousands gathered Belgraders, wishing them a happy New Year. Their message was: "They're finished, we have won," "Long live democratic Serbia" and "Let us finish what we set out to do." After the fireworks at midnight that lasted for over half an hour, accompanied by whistle sounds, alarm clock bells and thousands of fire crakers, a New Year's concert begun performed by many famed Serbian rock musicians. Streams of Belgraders flooded the downtown Belgrade. Republic Square was too small to hold all New Year's marchers - the square as well as the adjacent streets were packed with people. This was the largest celebration of the event in Belgrade to date. The gathering of citizens and supporters of the coalition Zajedno will continue in Belgrade on January 2 confirmed Slobodan Vukasovic, spokesman of the Democratic Party. There will be no gathering of the citizens of Belgrade today, because the New Year's celebration organized by the coalition lasted until the early hours of the morning.

Despite unusually cold temperatures, thousands of students and lecturers of UofB, who are protesting against the disrespect of electoral will of citizens, celebrated the New Year's Eve and the 39th straight day of their protest with great fireworks and the deafening noise of whistles and trumpets. The students of UofB began building up a carnival-like atmosphere at -10C in the square in front of the School of Philosophy, their usual gathering place, from which they set out on protest marches down the streets of Belgrade. Fireworks, torches, firecrackers, flashlights lighted the merriest night of the students of UofB. There was a cage set up on the scene, where 3 students spent several hours to be symbolically set free at midnight. The students organized a two-hour music program at the Plato, and at the beginning the Declaration of Freedom was read in which states that democracy is the goal of the students and that it is every citizens duty to resist the rule of the lack of law and tyranny. Cedomir Jankovic, member of the leadership of the Student Protest 96 stated that in the coming year the demands of the student protest would be fulfilled and that the students will not allow 1997 to be "eaten by grasshoppers". Democracy begins in 1997, stated Jankovic. At the beginning of the program the Magician Rosi displayed an illusion involving stolen votes. He brought a voting box made of plexiglas, placed a few votes in it, and covered it with a black cloth. You will see that your votes are gone, said the magician, and so it was. The magician then told the students that their votes would appear when there is democracy. The well-known student slogans "Belgrade is the world" and "Student Protest" and a smaller banner reading "Happy New Year" hung from above the improvised stage where the Belgrade musician Momcilo Bajagic-Bajaga preformed. The design of the evening was certainly the rubber reptile with the inscription "the last Slobosaurus." The rock band Kristali and Delca also performed, and the singer of the Party-breakers Zoran Kostic-Cane stated that a "new time is coming". "The Breakers are with you" said Cane. After midnight the students moved to the Republic Square. About fifty students who went through Knez Mihajlova street created a "train" which thrilled the citizens. Many citizens shouted "I love you, also!" alluding to the words of Slobodan Milosevic at the recently held rally of his supporters in Belgrade. The organizers of the student celebration supplied refreshments. The students of both Belgrade Universities demand the respect of the electoral will of the citizens and the resignations of the Chancellor and the student Vice-Chancellor of the Belgrade University, Dragutin Velickovic and Vojin Djurdjevic who have ignored their protest.

Student Protest '96 organized an action titled "Noise Is All the Rage," inviting Belgraders to gather in the square in front of the School of Philosophy at 7 p.m. today and bring with them a variety of "noise-making instruments." The action, began at 7:30 p.m. sharp, the time of the Radio Television Serbia's prime time news show, has an alternative title: "All Confused" [allusion to a statement by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic concerning the OSCE report].

After 6 days of having their protest walks blocked by the police, UofB students managed to marched in the streets of Belgrade tonight. "We don't have a TV station but we have tom-toms and we are heard far enough" was the working title of tonight's action by the students, who were joined by tens of thousands of Belgraders. Even greater numbers of capital-dwellers joined the action from their balconies and windows, banging on various kitchenware and other objects. The Steering Board acted quickly on the fact that there were no police forces in the streets and decided to organize an impromptu march. The students who took part in the walk taunted the authorities by chanting "Give us back our police cordons."

New Belgrade was tonight the nosiest part of the city, making the opposition neighborhoods in the old part of the city ashamed of themselves. New Belgrade is notorious for its staunch support of the left coalition, being the residence of old age pensioners and military staff, so its participation in tonight's sound-protest came as a surprise to many. Dorcol, one of the oldest parts of the city, also stood out by the vivacity of its residents' protest against the state media coverage of the current events.

The absence of police and snow enabled the citizens of Belgrade to joyfully and noisily celebrate the comming of the New Year and return of humor and warm feeling, states the New York Times today.

Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic said in his New Year message to the students that Serbia's future was in their hands, stressing he hopes they are aware of the responsibility they have in these historic days. "I wish you to persevere in your struggle and let nothing stop you on the road you have chosen," his card said. It expressed his full support for the students, asking them to give his best wishes to all of democratic Serbia.

Chairman of Montenegrin Parliament Svetozar Marovic said in his New Year's message to the people in Montenegro, broadcast by the independent Montenegrin radio "Antena M," that he expects "those who had invited the OSCE mission to respect its report." He stressed that "Serbia and Montenegro, i.e. FR Yugoslavia, must not allow renewed isolation" for this would "jeopardize our country's development," reports Montena Fax.

Vojin Dimitrijevic, lecturer at the School of Law at the University of Belgrade, said in an interview to the New Year's issue of the Montenegrin independent newspaper "Monitor," that the present situation in Serbia can be overcome "without bloodshed only if a member of the present government is found [to step in] as an interim solution, somebody who has not dirtied his hands so much that he cannot be forgiven."

A New Year's message by Slavko Perovic, leader of the Montenegrin Liberal Alliance and co-leader of the coalition "Narodna Sloga" [People's Unity], said that this generation has the difficult task of getting rid of the "last communist dictatorial regime remaining in Europe." Novak Kilibarda, leader of the People's Party and co-leader of the coalition "Narodna Sloga," also spoke to the "Antena M" expressing his hope that 1997 will see the victory of democracy in Montenegro. "Narodna Sloga believes it will succeed, jointly with the democratic forces of Serbia, with Zajedno, to bring democracy into this country," said Kilibarda, calling on the Montenegrin ruling party to join the forces of democracy.

US media gave comprehensive coverage to the celebration of New Year's Eve in Belgrade's Republic Square, where, they said, some 150,000 people gathered to wish a happy and free year of 1997 for Serbia. "Washington Post" noted President Milosevic's failure to mention in his New Year's address the opposition and student protests or the OSCE demand that he accept the opposition victory in 9 Belgrade municipalities and 13 other cities in Serbia by the end of this week, reports Slobodan Pavlovic for FoNet. Quoting diplomatic sources, the Washington daily reports that Milosevic and his Foreign Minister Milutinovic did not wish to meet Western representatives to discuss Serbian response to the OSCE recommendations. Instead, Western diplomats had a meeting with Yugoslav Assistant Foreign Minister Cicanovic and were told that due to the New Year holiday break, a full implementation of these will not be possible before Friday. The only thing confirmed in Washington concerning this issue is that the OSCE will examine the situation in Serbia and Milosevic's response to the demand they have put to him at its meeting in Vienna this Friday. Only after this meeting will the US government make its future steps known. What these might be, should Milosevic's government fail to comply with the OSCE recommendations, has already been indicated to Belgrade through both diplomatic channels and public statements.

"What the forthcoming days will bring to Serbia and the whole of the Balkans not even a Santa Claus could tell. The fate of Serbia is known only to these two: God Almighty and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic," says the New Year's issue of the Russian weekly "Moskovske Novosti."

In many cities across Serbia, in which street protests at the nullification of the local electoral results have been staged for over a month now, protest festivities were held last night also, to usher in the New Year. Upwards of 10,000 people turned out in Kragujevac for a protest march which took place just after midnight. The newly-elected municipal officials, among whom were the Zajedno representatives of course, were among the marchers.
In a carnival atmosphere complete with fireworks, torches, firecrackers and balloons, over 50,000 people celebrated the New Year's Eve in the central square of Nis. A Zajedno representative from Nis told Radio B92 there were no incidents with the police, commending the head of the Nis Police Department, who ranked high in popularity in a polling list Nis Television 9 carried out among its viewers. Zajedno representatives called on the gathered citizens to keep up their struggle for democracy and come out again tomorrow for a rally at 3 p.m. This was the first outdoors celebration of a New Year's Eve in this city.
After a protest rally organized by the coalition Zajedno, some 3,000 celebrated New Year's Eve in downtown Jagodina, too. In Leskovac, some 7,000 people celebrated in the streets. The celebration was organized by the City Assembly and the privately owned Radio 016. Several policemen were observed in the square, while four hours prior to the celebration heavy riot squads prevented Zajedno supporters from going on their protest march through the city streets. Some of them did prison circles in front of the police instead.
Over 15,000 Kraljevans accepted Zajedno's invitation to celebrate the New Year's Eve together. An ox was roasted in Kraljevo's central square. The protest in Kraljevo at the nullification of electoral results is to continue tomorrow afternoon at 5.
Some 20,000 waltzed last night in the streets of Novi Sad, cheered by champagne and fireworks. The celebration was organized by the newly elected [opposition] City Assembly.

The Coordination Board of the International Media Help (IMH) awarded Belgrade radio station B-92 the title of "Radio Station of the Year" for 1996. The award was given to the station for the "objective reporting in the undemocratic conditions in Yugoslavia".

The oppositional coalition Zajedno in Nis stated today that the county prosecutor Golub Golubovic, resigned from his post in the City Electoral Committee, and saluted the action of the prosecutor. According to the information the coalition Zajedno received, Golubovic submitted his resignation a few days ago, but Branislav Nesic, president of the City Electoral Committee refuses to inform the public.

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