Student Protest '96 - '97
January 9th, 1997
The students gathered as usual at the Plato, on the 49th day of the Student Protest '96-97. More numerous than the previous day, the students awaited the announced "Stop Cordon!" project - the passive penetration of the cordon.
Huge lines of people waiting to find out their shift in the student cordon. Nine groups were formed (Red-1, Blue-1, White-1, Red-2... White-3), and each student received a color-card with the a number on it (1,2, or 3).
The guest speakers for the day were Hanibal Kovac, journalist from Sabac, Zivorad Colic, teacher of the 13th Belgrade High School, Srdjan Saper, singer of the former r'n'r band Vis Idoli. The students were informed that the Deans of the Schools of Dentistry and Physical Education had joined the appeal of ten other Deans of different schools of the Belgrade University to Slobodan Milosevic and Mirko Marjanovic, in which they demand recognition of the results of the November 17 elections.
The students attempted to go for their protest walk, as usual, but the Student Square was blocked by police cordons, also as usual. After a circle through Kneza Milosa and around the Student Square, during which they tried to pass through every street, the students formed a cordon in Vasina street opposite the standing police cordon, around 3 o'clock. Another cordon was assembled in Knez Mihajlova street towards the Republic Square. The police officers "freed" an area of ten meters of the length of the street and two cordons faced two protesting groups, one - the students and the other - the coalition Zajedno The students prepared an "educational" program which took place in the area between the student and police cordons. The students read different literature to the police officers in the cordon, but the officers were ordered to refuse the offered tea.
After the first three groups (Red-1, Blue-1 and White-1) ended their shifts, a walk was attempted, as planned. The students walked around the Student Square and through Knez Mihajlova street, once again, but when they returned the police cordon was gone. With shouts of "Walk!" the students stormed down Vasina towards Terazije, but after crossing the Republic Square and entering Kolarceva street they were stopped by a cordon of the anti-terrorist police brigade. The students were sharply warned to retreat, but still remained in front of the cordon. The student security secured a neutral zone between the two groups, where only the security, leadership and press was allowed. The police force concentrated in Kolarceva and on Terazije beyond numbered about a thousand, part in the cordon and the rest in police vans lined up beyond.
As time passed and it got colder, the student leadership appealed through Radio Index and Radio B-92, to the citizens of Belgrade to provide warm drinks and food for the students in the street, and bottles of coffee, tea, sandwiches and even some brandy were along soon. The people of Belgrade also took food and refreshments to the School of Philosophy where the central gathering point was organized. Citizens also kept the students company by standing on the sidewalk in the vicinity of the two cordons. The traditional drum section was always present beating a jumping rhythm to keep the students warm, while a pair of students played chess in lawn-chairs in front of the police cordon.
At 7.30, when the News of RTS start, the students leaded the entire city in the noise-making in order to outvoice the subjective news reports. As in the previous ten days, people banged pots and pans protesting against the RTS News.
At 8 o'clock the 2,000 gathered students were told by the police commanders to go home, because there was "no way that they would be let through". At this time the students were joined by different public figures, mostly actors and musicians: Svetlana Bojkovic, Branka Katic, Bajaga, Predrag Ejdus, Jovan Cirilov, members of the Kata Kaporalica stage troop, and others. A car equipped with a generator and stereo system arrived and started playing music to cheer up the mood (even though it was very cheerful anyway). At midnight Branka Katic counted down the seconds, and was the first to congratulate the students on the 50th day of the Student Protest '96-97, and the show went on...
Around 1 o'clock smoke could be seen in Kolarceva, as fire-trucks came to the scene and the police retreated and mysteriously disappeared... and the students were free to walk. When the word got out that the police cordon had "fallen" people started to gather in greater numbers for the victory walk. The students made their traditional noise using whistles, trumpets and drums, but were also joined by the horns of their motorized colleagues who came to the walk from the suburbs in their cars. The procession walked down Srpskih Vladara to Slavija and then up Beogradska street. By now there were more than 5,000 students in the street. The citizens in the buildings along the way flashed their lights and threw confetti from their windows. At the corner of Proleterskih Brigada an unfortunate incident took place, a cars ran into the procession injuring three students and an eleven-year-old girl, of which one had to be taken to the hospital. The students turned right into Bulevar Revolucije, passed by Vuk's monument, down Ruzveltova street and into Cvijiceva. People who saw the procession came out of their houses, some even in slippers to join the students, and the numbers grew... While passing by Starine Novaka street, at which point there was already around 10,000 students, a group of about 2,000 colleagues who stated at the scene of the accident in Beogradska street stormed down the street to join the group. This created a sudden fright among the members of the student security, fearing outside intervention. It was 2.30 am. The students then passed down November 29 and George Washington streets and into Takovska street. They passed by RTS, which receives monthly payments which are automatically added to the citizen's electric bills, loudly protesting against the contents of its program. The procession stopped at the corner of Nemanjina and Kneza Milosa to protest in front of the Republic government. The procession now numbered 15,000 pedestrians and about a hundred cars. The students rested a while and then proceeded to Slavija where they arrived around 4 o'clock. The question arose wether to organize a wake in front of the Republic government or to return to the Plato and go home. The majority decided to return to the Plato, where food and refreshment were available. A faction numbering a few hundred students still went to the Republic government to request the formal reception with Prime Minister. At eight o'clock their formal request was officially acknowledged, but they were told that they could not be received because the Prime Minister was ill. The students who stayed there until 9 o'clock, were drowning in food and drinks brought by the overwhelmed citizens of Belgrade.
Teanosugar & Wolfe