Student Protest '96 - '97
January 19th-27th, 1997
Another "Stop cordon" project was about to take place. The students gathered as usual in order to protest against the electoral fraud. After the guests addressed them, around 8 pm students proceeded towards Kolarceva street.
The cordon was setup in Kolarceva at the usual place, in front the Jugoslovenska Knjiga bookstore. The students setup "camp" bringing their loud speaker, forming "no-man's land" and their own cordon. Music was played in one area and live drums beat the rhythm in the rear. Many citizens came at once to show their support to the students, bringing hot drinks and food with them. When the word got out through the independent radio stations Radio Index and Radio B-92, people started forming organized support processions in different parts of the city. The first to arrive were the citizens from Dorcol, which is about 15 minutes away. They were followed by the citizens from Novi Beograd (a 45 minute walk). Citizens from further suburbs, which are to far to walk from, created their own small protest traffic blocks, supporting the students.
Meanwhile in Kolarceva street, the students were reminding the police of how long they had been there. Every hour, on the hour, the students counted down the last ten seconds, and cheered the new hour. This was followed by the song "Mjesecina" (Moonlight), from the movie "Underground".
At midnight the students made extra noise to signify the 60th day of the Student Protest '96-97. The police changed shifts every hour, and were greeted by the students. Even though the temperature was below freezing, there were about 2,000 students even at 3 am.
Later on, two fellows showed up in a complete fishing outfit (rod and all) and brought a bucket filled with water. They placed the bucket in one spot, put their fishing stools at a 5-10 meter distance and "fished" in front of the police cordon for roughly three hours. Another girl danced on a stone platform for 16.5 hours (continually) before descending to take a break. She was cheered by the crowd and called upon to break her record when she felt up to it. At about 5 am a few girls approached the cordon in order to take picture with our "guardians". The Student Security promptly reacted trying to get them back into the crowd (to avoid the incident) but the officer in charge of the cordon smiled and said "it's OK lads, the girls just want a picture with us...". And so, the protest, the music, the good vibes, went on and on. The crowd always found ways to entertain itself (basketball and soccer - the ball field from one end of our "cordon" to the other; playing cards - in front of the police cordon there were always 3-4 people engaged with card playing (preference mostly); dancing all of the time, etc). At 2.00 pm His Grace Patriarch Pavle addressed the students and told them that they are fighting for a cause that was always sacred to the people and church of Serbia. From time to time the speakers stand had been visited by people who had something to say.
During the evening the students were addressed by members of the Association of Drama Artists of Serbia headed by Dragan Nikolic Milena Dravic, Dara Dzokic, Aljosa Vuckovic, Zoran Cvijanovic, Bane Bumbar and a group of pop and rock singers, including Bora Djordjevic and Prele, sang a song of Belgrade. Vojislav Kostunica, president of the Serbian Democratic Party also spoke the students. Food and hot drinks continued to flow towards Kolarceva street and the protest continued. Tocak from the SMAK rock group had a performance around midnight which filled the air with subtle yet strong energy. And the 61st day of the protest and the 31st hour of the gathering started.
The day started in a carnival mood. Everybody was cheerful and happy, music was played over the loud speakers and the people danced in the streets. At 5am, the number of students hit a low point, since the night shift had started returning home, and the morning shift had not yet started arriving, but there were still about a thousand students. Since the street cleaners had not been able to enter Kolarceva street in two days, the student leadership used the small number of people to enable the cleaners to so their job.
At noon the professors came to support their students in front of the police cordon. They also spoke to the officers blocking the street. A driver for the public transportation brought his bus behind the cordon at one moment, but turned around soon. It was announced that all discotheques have ceased working until further notice. It was estimated that they could not compete with the "Blue Cordon" discotheque.
As evening came more and more people gathered. During the evening edition of the News on RTS citizens gathered for walks in different parts of the cities, and people from the neighboring parts of Belgrade came to the Republic Square, just next to the students. The deans of the schools of the University of Belgrade appeared at 8 o'clock and were greeted with an applause. By 10pm there were more than 20,000 students crowded in Kolarceva street. There was a little incident when the police commander was nearly hit by a glass bottle, but there was no reaction by the police. The commander allegedly said that there would have been trouble had the squad been from Kosovo. Because of the incident the student security created a larger no-man's land. Students of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences organized a grill in the street, while the professors of the same school gave lectures in front of the cordon.
More than 100 actors from the Drama Artists Association of Serbia arrived around 1 o'clock to express their support of the Student Protest '96/97. They were also addressed by different public figures, singers, actors, writers, and others. At 1.30 the party officially started with different guest DJs from the protesting discotheques. They played different rhythms, mostly songs which liven the spirits of the gathered students.
The protest continued into the night and early morning hours. There was a considerably greater number of students than the previous nights. Different guest DJs played music contributing to the continuous good mood of the gathered crowd. Food was available in the street and at the School of Philosophy, located 3 minutes away. Tired students were offered food and a warm place to rest in the central hall of the School of Philosophy and the main amphitheater of the School of Chemistry.
Singer Dusan Prelevic- Prele talked all morning to the police officers in the cordon. His specially low voice rang throughout the street. At 1 pm the proclamation of the Miss Protest was held, organized by the Demokratija paper. The first twelve contenders walked in front of the police cordon and were presented awards on the improvised mobile stage. The Miss Protest walked a special exhibitionist walk in front of the cordon and kissed an officer by surprise- he smiled. She won a 10-day Greek vacation. The unofficial Mrs. Protest, Grandma Olga from Ivo Lola Ribar street, the mascot of the protests in Belgrade addressed the students at 1.30 pm. She was greeted by the students with cries of "We love you Grandma Olga!", she said that she would not answer "I love you also." [in allusion to the words of Slobodan Milosevic at the counter-rally] but that she was with us with all her heart. Grandma Olga received a 7-day vacation to one of the spas of Serbia. A lady gave the officers in the cordon buttons of the student protest, but the most wanted article was the button reading "I love you also."
Members of the Drama Association of Serbia visited Kolarceva street again today. More than 200 actors could be seen in the street around 10 o'clock. At 11 o'clock representatives of the Lawyer Association of Belgrade addressed the gathered students.
At midnight the students celebrated the start of the 63rd day of protest and the 79th hour of the gathering in Kolarceva street. Professional actors played Macbeth in front of the police cordon in sign of support for the students in their fight for democracy. The following happening in Kolarceva was the Looking Glass project. People brought mirrors to in front of the cordon so the officers could see themselves.
The student leadership organized shifts in order to have a relatively constant number of people in Kolarceva street. The students were organized in groups according to the schools they belong to. Three groups took turns in five-hour shifts. This was enough to enable the students to rest between two shifts.
At 10 pm the students celebrated the 100th hour of their stand in Kolarceva street. There were fireworks and loud whistling and noise making.
At midnight the sixth day in Kolarceva began. The night was colder than usual due to the fog which covered the center of the city. As usual the students were addressed by different people during the night, public figures who gave their support and positive energy to the freezing students. Music was present in order to liven the spirits. The drum section was also helpful, a record 12 drummers gathered in one spot and beat an African and Macedonian rhythm.
As day came so did delegations from different organizations. Members of the Association of Literate Translators came at noon, followed by a delegation of bankers, and later a group from the electrical company also visited Kolarceva street. High school teachers from the Fifth Belgrade High School, who are among the teachers protesting because they haven't been payed, addressed the gathered students. At 9 pm a delegation of librarians came to express their support. They offered each policeman in the cordon a book, but since they refused, the librarians placed the books at their feet.
The students organized the collecting of funds for Aleksandar and Nada Brkic, who are blind and need to be operated on in the West. The students collected 3,000 dinars (600 USD, 5 average salaries) by 8pm.
After the citizens protested against the RTS News, processions from the closer parts of town came to the Republic Square only meters away from Kolarceva street. Huge numbers of High School Seniors [who are of age, and have the right to vote], stayed on with the students increasing the number of protesters.
As usual the students emotionally celebrated the coming of a new day in Kolarceva street. At midnight they counted down the seconds to the seventh day of the fourth edition of the project "Cordon vs. Cordon" (the first three were more successful).
As morning came, and the bank in Kolarceva was about to open, a group of retired people formed a line, waiting for their pensions. The announcer of the Student Protest said that the elder citizens were there in order to support the students in their demands. There were a few smiles, but mostly grumpy faces.
The police continued to change shifts every hour and a half. The morning hours continued with music blasting from the speakers while roughly 300 students kept on dancing to the tunes. Behind them, on an empty patch, several people played badminton. A little later a group of 6 students appeared with a table and chairs, and started playing an AD & D game (Dungeons & Dragons) which lasted for several hours. People stopped by interested by the gesticulation and noise which is part of the game, but soon left puzzled by the complex playing rules.
Around 20:30 several parts of town were blocked by police cordons in order to stop the citizens of Belgrade to join the students gathered in Kolarceva street in the town center. After blocking the main bridge that connects the town center with the suburban settlements and thus stopping citizens arriving (on foot) mainly from Novi Beograd, police cordons also appeared just in front Republic Square (near the gathering site of the students) in order to stop a large group of citizens trying to join the students. After verbal conflicts the police started to push back the growing crowd of people and several people were injured in clashes (one man was immediately rushed to the Trauma Center). The atmosphere got even more tensed by the arrival of several hundred students and other citizens on the other side of the police cordon. After an hour of high tension the police forces in cooperation with the student security, decided to withdraw from the scene thus enabling the citizens to join the ongoing protest. In the meanwhile, the police cordon blocking the bridge also withdrew and made it possible for the gathered people to continue their march towards the city center.
During the evening the students were addressed by different individuals and organization representatives. Among them were the representatives of the Lawyers Association of Belgrade and the Lawyers Association of Montenegro, various pop singers and public figures.
Midnight was announced by the 15 minute drum roll of the students who were playing in the crowd. They were headed by Dragoljub Djuricic, drummer for Leb i Sol, a famous Macedonian jazz-pop group. And the 66th day of the Student Protest '96/97, the 7th day and the 130th hour in Kolarceva street began. The first to address the students in the new day was, as usual, Predrag Ejdus, representing the Drama Artists Association of Serbia. He spoke in the name of the numerous gathered actors, and wished the students strength to endure in their fight.
The rest of the night and early morning hours were peaceful, except for one small incident which took place in front of the mobile stereo system. A greater incident was prevented due to the intervention of the student security.
At dawn citizens brought food, fruit and warm drinks to the students who stood in the street in sub-zero temperatures. Ljubivoje Rsumovic, poet, and Delca and Ivan both singers were seen in the crowd. The people continued to entertain themselves (and stay warm) in usual fashion. Aside from playing badminton, basketball and various other games, a few carefree students tossed a ball over the police cordon which was soon returned by a grumbling officer in charge. After repeating this a few times (obviously amused) the officer told these students that the ball shall not be returned if they continue tossing it over the cordon. Also, another custom was introduced in the crowd. The students (and everyone else at the scene) started to turn their backs to the police cordon on the hour in order to protest against the blockade of the streets in Belgrade.
During the day different delegations visited Kolarceva street. Among them were farmers, the "Stari Grad" hand-ball club, actors, education workers and others. At 6pm five signal rockets announced the start of the eighth day (168 hours) in front of the cordon. After this citizens' delegations of various professions continued to arrive at the scene to express their support. The delegation of actors brought a huge banner with a picture of St. George and the Dragon (one of the actors said that he hoped we would succeed in killing our Dragon, since St. George managed to kill his).
At the turn of the day the music was at full blast.
At 4am, the whole police camp, numbering hundreds of people suddenly disappeared. While the count down was taking place, precisely at the count of five everything happened. The buses on Terazije were quickly boarded and took off. The remaining cordon suddenly ran into one of the passageways and the students were free to go. The thrilled students rushed through the street and across Terazije, happy to be free to move through the city after more than a week of sitting in Kolarceva street. The 178 hour stand of the students was the most exhausting project of the Student Protest '96/97.
Celebrating their moral victory, the students made an extra long walk. The atmosphere was great. No one could believe for a while that we all managed to outsmart and outlast the police cordon. Everyone was shouting and singing as if they started the protest marches only the day before. As the procession of people advanced through the streets of Belgrade, the number of people rapidly increased. The march-route went down Srpskih Vladara to Slavija and up Marsala Tolbuhina, past Kalenic market to Bulevar Revolucije and Ruzveltova Street. From there it lead towards Karaburma, under the Pancevo Bridge and all the way up 29 November street. Before reaching the Republic Square the people turned into Mose Pijade street, passed in front of the Federal Parliament and turned into Takovska street. Passing by the RTS building they protested as usual against the televisions misleading information programs. The students then turned into Ivo Lola Ribar street where they were greeted by Baka Olga, the mascot of the Belgrade protests. They then continued into Makedonska street, and counter-right into Mose Pijade again, from which they entered the Terazije tunnel. Going down Brankova street they turned into Pop Lukina street and ended up in front of the Patriarchy. Where a number of students joined the lythia (Church procession) celebrating St. Sava's Day. [St. Sava is the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and protector of education.]
The students announced a one day rest after the exhausting week in Kolarceva street. The next gathering is scheduled for Wednesday at 10am at every school individually, and the groups will connect later during the day.
Wolfe & Teanosugar