Student Protest '96
December 24th, 1996
The students gathered at the Plato today, again. Tension could be felt because of the presence of people from the province, who came to Belgrade to attend the counter-rally of support for Slobodan Milosevic. There were no speeches at the Plato, and the students gathered while music was played over the loud speakers.
The head of the procession was established facing on the Student Square (adjacent of Plato), and we walked to the Kalemegdan park, and "counter-right" down Pariska street. The column came to a stop in front of the French Embassy; the reason was half-a-dozen buses, which were blocking the street. The buses transported the supporters of Slobodan Milosevic to Belgrade from all over Serbia. The student security stopped the procession about 50m from the buses, fearing a clash with the counter-protesters. The adjacent streets were packed with buses, as well as people from the counter-rally, which was scheduled to take place at 3 o'clock. The student security waited for the situation to clear before allowing us to pass.
The procession turned into Kneza Sime Markovica and Pop Lukina where the student security had to make a cordon in order to separate the students from the SPS supporters. The route went to Brankova and Narodnog Fronta, where another two cordons had to be formed. The security was afraid of open confrontation with the SPS supporters, after a few students had seized and destroyed their [SPS] banners. The procession stopped in Balkanska in order to compress the students, but word of the incident in Knez Mihajlova had already spread and people had started get frightened. Sarajevska street was blocked by more buses, and the students turned into Nemanjina street, towards Slavija. We met more counter- protesters in Kneza Milosa, so another cordon had to be established. On Slavija the procession turned into Beogradska street, but met another group of SPS supporters at the Boulevard of Revolution, where an incident almost took place. A number of students passed through the security cordon and took more banners from the socialists. From there the students went down the Street of 27 March and up 29 November to Vasina and Plato.
The walk was without larger incident considering the fact that the city was full of smaller groups of people attending the counter-rally organized by the SPS, which the students tried to avoid. No police were noticed on the streets, even though there was great potential for trouble.