Ivo Skoric on Sat, 4 Mar 2000 17:39:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Poster War in Belgrade

The surrealist poster war between the Resistance and the usurper 
Milosevic government in Serbia may look humorous, but the 
beatings are real.


------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

A clenched fist becomes Milosevic's vexation 


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) After clamping down on independent media,
universities and the judiciary, Slobodan Milosevic is faced with a new
challenge: a burgeoning student movement that mocks him in the street and
has proven hard to break.

With a clenched fist as its symbol (http://balkansnet.org/otpor.jpg), the
Resistance movement or Otpor in Serbian (http://www.otpor.com) has been
staging protests throughout the country against Milosevic's hard-line
rule, which has turned Serbia into a pariah state.

The protests often organized as scattered street actions deriding the
Yugoslav president come amid a fierce government crackdown against dissent
that appears to be pushing Serbia a notch closer to dictatorship.

Independent media critical of the regime are heavily fined and faced with
closure. The government vastly expanded its authority over universities
the traditional pillar of dissent by appointing strict Milosevic loyalists
as new deans and professors. Judges, hospital and factory directors not
working under state instructions have been fired.

With Serbia's fragmented opposition unable to shake Milosevic's rule
despite the country's economic and social turmoil, the Resistance is doing
it almost single-handedly and getting popular support.

''For the last six months, we have been the only force that openly resists
Milosevic's repression,'' said Resistance spokesman, Vukasin Petrovic.
''Currently, we are the strongest threat for Milosevic's regime and he
doesn't know how to get rid of us.''

In the streets of several Serbian cities, Resistance has staged small,
mocking protests. They offer anyone who pays a dinar about a penny the
chance to punch Milosevic's effigy. They paint red footprints, Milosevic's
''bloodied'' steps, to show him leaving the parliament for good. They
watch a falling star, named ''Slobotea,'' through a cardboard telescope.

''With our colorful protest, we managed to wipe out the fear many Serbs
had of the regime and political changes,'' said Resistance activist
Katarina Radovic. ''Rapidly increasing numbers of both young and old
supporters are obviously irritating the regime.''

The government response to the Resistance protests has been typical: Some
190 activists were detained and beaten by the police in the last six
months, spending a total of 8,000 hours in jail, Petrovic said.

State officials regularly brand them ''traitors and mercenaries'' paid by
the United States to destabilize the country's ''patriotic'' forces.

Posters of the Resistance's clenched fists announcing new protests have
been plastered over with new ones trying to tarnish the movement: pictures
of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright a highly unpopular figure
among Serbs wearing an ''I love Resistance'' T-shirt.

Albright is shown holding dollars in her clenched fist, presumably to pay
off the student leaders, and inviting them to eat ''grandma's cookies.''

Last week in Belgrade, when two pedestrians tried to tear down the
Albright posters, they were severely beaten by young men in leather
jackets and crew cuts usually worn by plainclothes Serbian police who were
sitting and waiting in a truck nearby. The incident was filmed with an
amateur video camera and shown to reporters.

Despite the violent government response, Resistance has seemed to thrive.

The movement's black badges and posters with the white clenched fist have
become a rarity because of the demand. Actors received a standing ovation
recently in a Belgrade theater when they greeted spectators with raised
fists, an increasingly popular Resistance salute.

The atmosphere at universities is similar to late 1996, when students
spearheaded months-long anti-Milosevic protests that nearly toppled the

''The movement is hard to restrain because it has no distinct leaders or
formal members whom Milosevic could arrest,'' Petrovic said. ''Resistance
is not an organization, but an idea, and the regime cannot ban an idea
like it can organizations.''

The movement, which had a mere handful of die-hard activists only a year
ago, now numbers about 17,000 regular activists in 74 Serbian communities,
Resistance sources say.

''Even if its true that they are paid by the Americans, as the regime
says, it's better to get the dollars than be robbed by Milosevic's
regime,'' said an elderly Belgrader, who identified himself only as Vlada,
as he looked at the Albright posters.


ps - I added the links

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