Note from LeftEast editors: We repost Iskra Krstić’s article published by Mašina on November 29, 2021 – a report from last weekend’s protests. This weekend the protests turned even more massive with blockades in about 50 towns. It is the second text in a series of interventions LeftEast will publish on the eco uprising in Serbia.
The article was republished as part of a cooperation between Eastern European leftist media platforms in ELMO (Eastern European Left Media Outlet).
Photo: András Juhász / Mašina
Sunday afternoon citizens filled the Republic Square in Belgrade protesting against regime violence. The protest was organized by the Ecological Uprising, the Open Civic Platform Action, and the Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own movement. Earlier the same day, several thousand citizens gathered to demand efficient environmental protection at the third protest for safe air, organized by the Eco Guard.
Saturday afternoon, roadblocks were held throughout Serbia in protest against the Law on Expropriation and the Law on Referendum, which were adopted recently, and the policies and projects of the current government. The Law on Expropriation enables private companies to expropriate. It is considered to have been drafted for the purposes of implementing the Jadar project, with which the citizens also expressed disagreement on Saturday. In the previous days, the statements of prime minister Ana Brnabić that Rio Tinto has already bought all the land it needed were denied.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs did not issue a permit for roadblocks, and on Saturday, cordons of police officers prevented citizens from carrying out the blockade. During the protest, citizens were taken into custody in several cities, the police showed unnecessary brutality, and incidents have been reported.
The biggest incidents occurred in Sabac, where opponents of the protest attacked the citizens who blocked the bridge with batons and hammers. Citizens were also in danger of being run down by a bulldozer. Police did not stop the armed perpetrators. Instead, they detained Dragan Milovanović Crni, who physically confronted the bulldozer driver, a member of the Serbian Progressive Party. This was the immediate reason for the “Stop the regime violence” protest.
Dobrica Veselinović from Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own described the events in Šabac and publicly repeated a question he already asked the police in Šabac, asking them to choose who do they serve – the state or Aleksandar Vučić.
“Are they ashamed of themselves? This flag is what we respect, this is what we are here for today, for what we will take to the streets whenever we need to oppose injustice and the wrongdoings of the Progressive party “, Veselinović addressed the gathered citizens.
“Yesterday, a command was issued to run over the people in Šabac with an excavator. We will not tolerate that!”, exclaimed Nebojsa Zelenovic from Zajedno za Srbiju (Together for Serbia) and the Open Civic Platform Action, demanding that Milovanović be released, and those who attacked the citizens with an excavator arrested. Citizens in Serbia are angry and can no longer tolerate this, Zelenović said, demanding also to find out who issued the order for the police to withdraw and allow the hooligans to attack bare-handed people.
“We harbor no fear and we will defend ourselves! We stand in defense of a decent Serbia – this is the resistance of the free people. We will not allow our country to become a colony, we will not allow the adoption of a shameful law that would rob the people in places like Nedeljice and Jadar of their homes, a law which would enable the most fertile part of Serbia to be turned into a landfill!”, said Zelenović.
“There is at least one hammer in every house in Serbia, and what is a hammer for? To hit nails, not to break heads with it. Aleksandar Vučić, former vice president of the Serbian Radical Party, and current state official number one… Do you really think, you, despicable being, that we will calmly watch your paramilitary formations use hammers to smash the heads of people who defend their land, the land that you decided to steal from them”, said Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta from the Ecological Uprising, adding that the keyword in the coming months will be uprising.
He also thanked the “Eco Guard” for organizing the protest gathering for safe air, which he referred to as magnificent.
Đorđe Miketić from the Heart of the City movement said that the state has been abolished in teh city of Šabac, and that there would be no state or institutions until this regime fell.
Following the protest gathering at the Republic Square, the citizens walked to the building of the state television. The protest was also supported by the political platform Solidarity, Election for our municipality, the 1 of 5 million movement. Representatives of the Democratic Party, the New Party, and the People’s Party were also present.
Commenting on the incidents in Šabac on Monday, Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabic stated for Happy Television that the excavator in Šabac “did not go through the crowd” but moved “two or three kilometers per hour so as not to accidentally injure someone”, N1 reports. Authorities tried to relativize the significance of the protest, commenting that merely several hundred people had gathered.
Protests were held today in Loznica and Šabac, and the next blockade of roads has been announced for the coming weekend.
Iskra Krstić is an independent researcher from Belgrade, with a focus on critical urban studies. She is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade. She graduated from Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Political sciences, UB. Krstić is an author at masina.rs