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BELGRADE RALLIES AGAINST EXTRADITION!
100,000-200,000 Marching to Kostunica's Office Demand: "TELL US WHO RULES YUGOSLAVIA?"
As I write these words I am listening by connection with a friend's cellular phone to the rally in Republic Square in Belgrade.
The sound is indescribable. The crowd is immense, the biggest my friend has ever seen. People respond to the speakers with a sound like the roar of lions. The speakers and the crowd are passionately against the decree passed last Saturday by the DOS parties in the Yugoslav Administration, 'authorizing' extradition of Milosevic and other Yugoslav patriots to NATO's war crimes tribunal. Speakers are saying this is treason to the Serbian nation. That the Constitution is the highest legal obligation of any state and that by breaking the constitution one betrays the nation. They are saying that all Serbian people and others loyal to Yugoslavia must unite and take back their government and throw out those who have betrayed the nation to Washington, which dangles false bribes to humiliate the Serbian people.
I am told that this crowd, whose passion is so great the phone is vibrating against my ear, includes activists from parties besides the Socialists, including Mr. Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia. The DSS people are outraged that Mr. Kostunica has stifled within his own party criticism of this gross violation of the constitution. Earlier, one of them took the phone from my friend and yelled at me against the roar of the background: "We are now the Serbian Undemocratic Party!'"
I had the honor of being one of the speakers at the huge (though smaller) rally March 24th in this same Republic Square, to commemorate the onset of bombing of Yugoslavia on march 24, 1999. Afterwards one of the leaders of Kostunica's party gave me the red beret that he had worn as an officer in the Army of the Republika Srpska. He said, "Our coalition with Djindjic is just temporary."
But now Mr. Kostunica and Mr. Djindjic are both supporting extradition. Has Kostunica betrayed his beliefs? Or was he always really a decoy, a leader who said things a little-less-bad than Djindjic, to give patriots the illusory hope that in him they had a defender? Whatever the case, the U.S. has made its wishes clear to Mr. Kostunica and Mr. Kostunica has not only endorsed extradition but, say these activists in the DSS, crushed dissent in his own party.
The noise has died down a little, and my friend is translating what some of the speakers said.
"At the rally people were speaking with one voice. They said: Abolish the decree! Slobodan Milosevic must be released immediately! The Serbian and Yugoslav governments should resign! Nobody should be extradited to The Hague! Those who adopted that illegal decree should be criminally charged! There must be general elections on all levels because the government has committed treason and lied and therefore nobody any longer supports them!"
MARCH TO KOSTUNICA'S OFFICE
The rally is over. I lost the connection with the first Belgrade friend, so I am calling another. (I will refrain from using people's names due to the intensity of the situation in Belgrade.)
A column of more 100-200,000 people has left Republic Square. They are moving through Belgrade. There is a vehicle in front, blaring music, and behind that, a broad line of people with a huge sign, 'FREEDOM FOR SERBIA! EXTRADITE NO ONE TO THE HAGUE!' Or words to that effect.
The column is without end. At this moment they are passing Djindjic's party headquarters, and the crowd is roaring their disapproval. I have to wait a few minutes for my friend to get sufficiently far from that point so the noise level drops enough for me to make out what he's saying. My friend says:
"We will pass near the Serbian parliament and government and then we will go to Kostunica's office. Our people today sent him a letter reminding him of all his past statements, that he was against the Hague Tribunal, against extradition, that extradition violated the Yugoslav constitution, that it required a Yugoslav law, that he stood for the dignity of Serbia, that he stood for defending sovereignty from NATO and on and on and called on him to appear at the rally today. Now since he has not appeared we are going to his office to demand that he come out and address the people and explain: Who is ruling Yugoslavia?"
Earlier I spoke to an activist who had just been to the Belgrade prison where Mr. Milosevic is being held. Members of the People's Guards, a group of mainly women who were beaten by agents of the government while acting as unarmed witnesses at Mr. Milosevic's residence during the March 28-29th arrest attempt, are holding a vigil there. The activist told me that there is a large contingent of police outside, nervously guarding the gates.
This is what the current authorities, these great democrats, have been reduced to. Fearful cops, waiting for the people to storm the Bastille.
26 June 2001
2:500 Eastern U.S. time, 8:50 pm in Belgrade
Late News - 5:15 PM, Eastern U.S. Time. 11:15 Belgrade time - Vigil for Justice
There is a crowd of many tens of thousands of Yugoslav people outside the Federation Palace, which houses the offices of the Federal Government and Mr. Kostunica. Monitors restrained the crowd which otherwise would have stormed the building. One cannot help recalling that last Oct. 5th, DOS operatives burned contested ballots from the September 23 elections, wrecked Serbian Television and beat up its manager and other opponents. Then the DOS leaders went on television and said: "Democracy is victorious," to a chorus of cooing approval in the Western media.
The people outside the Palace are singing songs and chanting. They are demanding that the extradition decree be rescinded; the government which passed this illegal, unconstitutional decree resign; and Mr. Milosevic be released.
Some people from the original rally in Republic Square did not make it all the way to the Federation Palace, but more people (including 11 buses that were detained on the way to the original rally) continue to arrive from all over to join this immense Vigil for Justice. A group of leading people from the demonstration went inside, negotiating with representatives of President Kostunica. After the meeting, the results were presented to the crowd: Mr. Kostunica had promised that "everything would be done in accordance with the constitution and laws and that nobody could be extradited contrary to the constitution." This did not satisfy anyone.
Zevadeen Yovanovich, the acting Chairman of the Socialist Party then spoke. Only a few of his words were translated for me: "The world needs a strong and dignified Serbia. What we are doing here is historic."
People stayed until 1:00 in the morning and then decided to go home. Mr. Yovanovich is scheduled to meet with Mr. Kostunica on Wednesday at 11 AM, Belgrade time.
- Jared Israel, 7:20 Eastern U.S. time, 1:20 AM Belgrade time
(The previous article, 'Vigil for Justice,' can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/news/rally26.htm )
- Jared Israel, 7:20 PM, Eastern US time
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