Six months of #1in5 million protests – What happens next?

From the cold November nights to snowed-in January and February, through to rainy April, to warm June, unhappy citizens of Serbia are continuing to walk in protest.

Saturday marked six months from the first #1in5 million protests with peaceful demonstrations continuing to take place all over Serbia.

A lot has changed in the meantime – from a civil protest to an opposition-led rally, from a dozen thousand to a significantly smaller number of demonstrators.

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BBC News Serbia talked to the protestors who are no longer protesting, those who are continuing to protest and those who never took part in the protests.

Why aren’t you protesting anymore?

“I do not believe in protests anymore, they are plagued with problems such as growing nationalistic statements, the incompetence of opposition leaders, and plans that are either bad or non-existent,” 31-year-old Marko Nikolic told the BBC.

According to him, it was too early to come up with the slogan “It Has Begun.”

“That (slogan) gives people too much hope that everything will be resolved quickly, but I see it as lasting another three years at best. Only then we may claim that something “has begun” to happen”, Nikolic adds.

His peer Andjela Pavlovic says that she stopped protesting because six months had passed and nothing has changed.

“The opposition did not unite and have no fresh ideas, and Bosko Obradovic is the one who misled me the most because I will never be able to agree with the extreme right even when it comes to bringing down Vucic’s dictatorship,” she says.

Why have you never protested?

“I do not agree with the politics of the current government, but I have no time to protest”, says 38-year-old Sara Minic and adds:” As a single mother, I have to work two jobs to feed my two children.” Still, she says, the protests are important because they demonstrated that things can move from a standstill and even change.

Nikola Lalović is another young man who never participated in the protests because, from the get-go, he could see that the protests were rife with problems.

“From the very beginning, the protests did not have a clear goal and they still don’t – the demands are vague, and I absolutely do not see the commitment to fighting for the state to regain its sovereignty, which I consider crucial to any progress,” he said.

Lalovic believes that the protests are in fact “clearly suit the authorities because they have no effect on them.”

“The protests have consolidated certain people as opposition leaders although these people do not have the capacity to damage this government anyway. They have responded in the wrong way to every government provocation, and the protest leadership is unable to recognize what they should react to and what they should not react to,” Lalovic adds.

Why are you still protesting?

“When an authoritarian government suffocates civil liberties, censors the media, manipulates information, intimidates and humiliates citizens – nothing is more important than joining in and showing civic courage and disobedience,” Nadja Maslar told the BBC.

“I am protesting in the streets on my behalf and on behalf of all my friends and family members who left this country, as well as all those who are not allowed to rebel or believe in this aspect of the struggle, I need to be on the street,” Nadja adds.

Bogdan Djordjevic is 27 years old and says that he is continuing to protest albeit much less after the D-Day April 13th came and went.

“I believe that every form of resistance to this government is good and that they keep giving us new reasons to protest over and over again,” he told the BBC.

(BBC Serbia, 07.06.2019)


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