Student Protest '96 - '97

March 5th, 1997

14:00 CET
(13:00 GMT)

The Plato

The project of the day. The taking of the Chancellorship. At about 2 o'clock the announced entrance into the building where the Chancellor's office is was attempted. The Main Board came to the main entrance and tried the door knob. It was open - a surprise. The fifty students leading the attack entered and found that the doorman was one of the very few people present in the building. But, the same doorman had to push us out, because "we had no business in the Chancellorship". The door was locked behind us. Luckily one person managed to remain hidden in the main hall, and later help the invasion. Outside the "attack" was under way. We found a low window was opened and a member of the Delta Force (student security) crawled in only to find himself in the wine seller of the Chancellorship club. He took a bottle as a trophy (see photo) and returned to inform the rest that there was no getting in this way. The following attempt came from the adjacent building of the School of Philosophy. The two buildings are connected by a passage which is marked as "Department of Archeology". The door leads down a flight of old wooden stairs, through an dark passage and a heavy metal door and into the yard of the Chancellorship. The security lead the invasion of the yard, and six students found themselves locked within the courtyard without a way of getting into the building itself. Then someone had a brilliant idea. Why not try the gateway which leads from the street into the courtyard. Another surprise! It was unlocked, all you had to do was try the doorknob. Now the invading students were in the courtyard but not yet in the building. That is where the hidden student came in handy. She managed to open a window on the first floor and five more security members were helped in the building. The problem was that the working hours were over and all the doors leading out of the building were locked. Luckily there were people around who support the student movement, people who know of a certain window on the ground floor which the employees use to get out of the Chancellorship after hours. A window which is unlocked. And suddenly we were in the building but in the wrong part of the building, the part where the school of Languages has its offices. Only one four-winged glass door separated us from our goal, the office of the Chancellor and the conference room. It's interesting what slim fingers can do to the latches holding the doors... First to the glass door leading to the Chancellorship itself, and then to the courtyard. And we were in. Trophy was shown to the awaiting crowd: the Chancellor's office chair. A symbol of reign over the University taken by the students. The act was greeted by a great applause. There were about 20,000 students gathered because of the heavily propagated action. By this time the Main Board had already infiltrated the building and entered the conference room and took their places in order to hold the first session of the Student Protest Board within the Chancellorship of the Belgrade University. The session was announced to take as long as it takes the Chancellor (as he is officially known) to resign. In the street the protest program was under way as usual. The guests included Ranko Jeremic, actor and Dejan Cukic our famous jazz-rock singer, who said that his generation never had the courage to follow their beliefs and so must support our fight for the same ideals. After that Dusan Popovic announced the walk for the day instead of Ceda Jovanovic who never showed up at the Plato.

15:30 CET
(14:30 GMT)

The "Walk"

The first part of the walk took us through the courtyard of the Chancellorship, which had just been "freed". Since all could not fit (the courtyard can take about 5,000 people), the students had to retreat and take to the streets again. The destination: the ministry of education where the Deans of the Belgrade University were at a meeting with minister of education. The 20,000 gathered students followed the noise-mobile down Vasina and Kolarceva, across Terazija and Srpskih Vladara to Kneza Milosa, where we loudly whistled in front of the Serbian government. In Nemanjina allegedly Slobodan Milosevic was seen in one of the cars which waited for the student procession to pass. When he was "discovered" the driver turned the car around and drove away. We gathered (the procession was very long) in front of the Ministry of Education but were informed that the meeting had ended and that the deans had left. (It was speculated that the meeting was suddenly brought to an end when it was announced that we were arriving.) It didn't matter. The deans were supposed to appear at the Chancellorship at 6 o'clock so we returned to the Plato via Slavija and Srpskih Vladara.

17:00 CET
(16:00 GMT)

The Plato

The Council of Deans and the Initiative Board for the Defence of Democracy were in session when the students returned to the Plato. The Deans were in the building of the school of Philosophy while the Board for the Defence of Democracy (which consists of a number of professors) was in the Chancellorship. The main group of students dispersed leaving the leadership to discuss. At about 8 o'clock the all three groups met in the conference room of the Chancellorship in order to bring a unified decision about the future events regarding the Belgrade University. After three hours of discussion (around 11 o'clock) the following was accepted by a majority vote (even though not all representatives of the schools in protest were present): the students would return to class on Friday for one whole trial day, giving the Chancellor the chance to fulfill his promise. A walk would be held on Saturday, either a victory walk (if the Chancellor resigns) or another protest walk with new demands (if he doesn't). A number of students had gathered in front of the building during the late evening after hearing what was happening at the meeting. Much commotion was started after the decision was announced. Questions were asked and new moments arose. At the moment this report was finished (5 am) the whole Main Board is in session, and there is a discussion whether the previous decision made under the pressure of the Deans is legitimate or not and whether the decision should be annulled.


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