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July 6, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 41
Serbia in a Broken Mirror

Landscape Painted With Tears

by Milan Milosevic

When Branimir Kuzmanovic, a student, read the demand for Milosevic's resignation, the whistling and cries "go away, go away" lasted a full ten minutes. This was, perhaps, the biggest non-violent outburst in Belgrade.

The St. Vitus' Day Rally, organized by DEPOS (Democratic Movement of Serbia) was blessed by Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox, who appealed strongly for peace. He said: "Do we perceive how many deaths there are in the terrors of this senseless war on both sides, how much unhappiness befalls innocent men, women, children and newborns, and Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Muslims?"

Academy member Matija Beckovic, in his speech, stressed that democratic Serbia "counts on the force called conscience and responsibility" and that "to the one salvation is more important than power, while the other will sacrifice everything but power for salvation".

Vuk Draskovic held what was perhaps his best political speech. Asking who should take Milosevic's place, he said nobody should take his place. "We don't want such a president, with such a policy and with such authority any more!" He said that sanctions can be lifted only if truly radical changes and a democratic transformation take place. He is the first politician in Belgrade who was applauded when he said that the government of national unity should include an ethnic-Albanian as well. On the first day of the Rally, Draskovic asked his supporters to take his picture down from the flagpole. At the Rally, there were people on the stand who warned those assembled that a man's throat was cut recently in Hrtkovci, Vojvodina.

The amplitude of the St. Vitus' Day Rally fooled the protagonists on both sides. This probably influenced the atmosphere of the talks with the authorities that started on Monday. Milosevic reckoned the rally was falling apart and tried to repudiate the demands for abdication. DEPOS, on its part, presenting itself as a kind of emotional organization, hesitantly assessed the support it had. The beginning of the negotiations between the members of DEPOS and the Citizens' Alliance, and President Milosevic, Prime Minister Bozovic and Speaker of Parliament Bakocevic did not offer a great deal of hope. According to Nebojsa Popov of the Republican Club, Milosevic on Monday agreed to launch talks on a round table, while linking his resignation to new elections or a plebiscite. He said nothing in concrete terms; he just spoke in vague phrases.

Prime Minister Bozovic also watered the demand for a round table, interpreting this institution as "a venue for talks", but not for decision-making, and practically rejected any and every idea of a division of power.

In the course of June, Milosevic's resignation and a radical change of regime were demanded by the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade University, DEPOS, and the Democrats in their separate platform in Parliament. The students' attempt to organize talks on a round table between the authorities and the opposition had no visible effect because the Socialists refused to take part and the ethnic-Albanians did not respond to the invitation.

On the one side, it looked as though everything had started, that a hint of every demand was won, that a foot was shoved in the door; but on the other side, it looked as though somebody would crush that small foot with a heavy door. The police was protecting Belgrade Television and, at times, the Serbian Presidency. A Parliament session was not convened so as not to irritate the people. Commenting on the regime's refusal to surrender power on a plate, across the round table, Vesna Pesic correctly concluded that a round table is a peaceful way to surrender power, but it also reflects the balance of forces.

DEPOS continued its rally, again endeavoring to raise a wave of protest. Official propaganda and the Socialist Party of Serbia claimed that the St. Vitus' Day Rally had failed. The Democrats (Djindjic), who were going through a crisis because of the leadership's decision to play its own game, in a way claimed the same. Several times it seemed as though the same thing was worrying the participants themselves. DEPOS went into session, Vuk Draskovic rebuked Belgrade for "eating ice-cream" while those attending the Rally were burning in the sun.

Academy member Mladen Sibinovic invited the Belgraders who returned from work, had lunch and were sitting with their slippers on to come to the Rally: "Your feet have to cover the center of town, not because of you, but because of your children who are at University and because of your still unborn children!"

The Crown Prince came to the Rally again, and addressed it in Serbian, English and French. The Serbs are getting acquainted with the Heir. Crown Prince Aleksandar received warm welcomes everywhere, in Belgrade and on his just started tour of Serbia, say reports.

The following night the Rally fell into another crisis, and the depression lasted until the students came out on their silent march, when they pasted a proclamation on the President's door, passing by the police wearing helmets. For one whole hour, they kept passing through the DEPOS Rally, deporting themselves magnificently and, not breaking their ranks, went their way emitting an unbelievably positive energy. They interrupted the gathering and played their cosmopolitan "Give Peace a Chance!"

It is a miracle how such a generation grew up in the chaos that rules Serbia, in an atmosphere of hatred, fear, intolerance and violence. It will be a pity if a real political movement does not arise from their cultured act. A peasant, who was sitting in the park with a grieved look on his face, got up, his face glowing, and removed his cap.

Draskovic, who learns fast, found himself the next evening leading some fifty thousand people peacefully through Terazije and Republic Square (two central squares in Belgrade). The demonstrators in the march shouted to the passers-by: "Come on UNPROFOR! Monitors, join us!"

A poster at the Faculty of Philosophy quotes Diderot's letter to Louis XIV: "You are sitting on a volcano ... Chaos is inevitable!"

This could be felt the following evening, when between 60 and 70 thousand people demonstrated for several hours against TV lies. In Kneza Milosa Street, a traffic policeman greeted them with three fingers raised. The television building was darkened while the mass shouted "You don't know how to count!" and "Come on out of the dark!"

The number of policemen present evoked respect. Tasmajdan Park turned blue from the uniforms, armored vehicles and water cannons were parked in front of St. Mark's Church, while in front of the television building the faces of the policemen under raised helmets expressed something between fear and wonder. An SPO (Serbian Renewal Movement) security guard who stood between the people and the police, said that the policemen would not be able to stop them if they wanted to get in, but they won't, not a Serb against a Serb, that is, they won't do it now, but let them wonder if they won't again tomorrow. The people shouted: "Take off your helmets!", and for a much longer time "Arrest Sloba!"

DEPOS has said the St. Vitus' Day Rally will continue until July 7.

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