Macedonia: Authorities Keep Ignoring Protesters’ Demands

This post is part of our special coverage Macedonia Protests 2011.

The legislative and executive branches of the Macedonian government continue to ignore the demands of protesters against police brutality. During the past three months, the protesters have employed various creative tactics to draw the attention of the public and break the ban on reporting and even discussing the protests imposed by the ruling party on the media under its control, as well as on its cronies and members.

Up until mid-July, the protesters continued to meet near the monument of Mother Teresa every day at 6 p.m. Unlike the first few weeks of the protests, during this later period the marches did not take place every day. Instead, the protesters self-organized into thematic bodies to take part in different kinds of activities.

Hugging the parliament

On Saturday, June 25, the protesters held a huge event of hugging the Parliament: they surrounded the building of the Macedonian Assembly, where the inaugural session was taking place at the time. Vnukot provided a comprehensive report of the day, which included performance art by the protesters. More info is available via several photo galleries.

The protesters had several run-ins with politicians, who used the lunch break to visit the headquarters of the ruling party situated near the Parliament. These included booing some of the acting ministers – among them Gordana Jankulovska, the Minister of the Interior, whose resignation the protesters demand on account of command responsibility.

During this event, the legal body submitted a civic initiative [mk] to the Parliament with demands to establish an independent system of control over the police. The Parliament ignored the issue, and has not provided any kind of response so far. The Minister of the Interior remained in her post – she was re-appointed upon the forming of the new government.

Day 30 March

On July 7, the evening of the 30th day since the murder of Martin Neshkovski, the protesters marched the streets of Skopje again. Vnukot covered this manifestation as well:

In contrast to previous weeks, the protest was relatively small, numbering a little over 100 people. Most of them held photographs from protests in the last month, making a mobile open air exhibit.

The crowd gathered at the Mother Theresa memorial house as usual, then went to the Parliament, after which they tried to get to the Ministry of Interior. The attempt was unsuccessful, because the police cordon was once again located at the intersection that cannot be passed.

There, Martin's brother called out to every citizen of Macedonia with a conscious to show support for the protests. Then he told his side of the story of the death of his brother, after which he asked for punishment for everyone involved.

30 days of protests in Skopje, Macedonia from Dejan Velkoski on Vimeo.

Exit Festival

On July 7, a group of representatives of the protesters took the opportunity to spread the word on the activist stage during the Exit Festival in Novi Sad (links in Macedonian, Serbian).

Also, during the performance of the Macedonian ska-punk and reggae band Superhiks, the band members wore t-shirts with the logo of the protests and explained about them (a photo gallery).

Video statements

Protesters also initiated an action for recording and publishing video statements, available at Justice for Martin YouTube profile. People from all around the world joined in, including Greece, Poland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Ireland, England, Australia, the USA, Croatia, New Zealand, Kosovo, Ukraine, Germany, Latvia, Kenia, Russia, Moldova, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Romania, Georgia, Italy, Indonesia, Serbia, Mexico, South Africa, the Phillipines, Syria, France.). The popular Macedonian comic actor Sashko Kocev also joined the initiative with his impromptu skit [mk] on the search for justice in a garbage dumpster, and Boris Kaeski made a video of his public performance in Vienna.

Antigone Theatre Performance

On June 18, the art group had a public performance of the theatre play [mk] Antigone by Sophocles. The subject matter of the ancient play fits within the context of the protest, as it concerns an effort of a young person who opposes the powers that be to pay respect to a dead youth.

Media silence

After closing of A1 TV on July 30, the remaining electronic and print media obeyed the informal embargo on reporting on the protest events. In early August, Fokus weekly, one of the few newspapers that dare publish critical coverage of the current events, ran a feature story on the protests that included an item in which their journalist phoned an editor of the public broadcaster MTV and asked him about the ban. He did not deny it, but said that it was not a topic he would speak about over the phone.

The Birthday Protest

On August 16, the day the late Martin Neshkovski would have turned 23, and upon the call of his family, around 200-300 people attended the so-called “Birthday Protest.” The protest featured a procession and manifestation in front of the Parliament, and featured a controversial birthday cake in the form of a dead human body. Using this prop caused a lot of negative comments on social networks, by people who supported the protests but did not appreciate the shock value of something they considered too morbid.

A Birthday Protest from Dejan Velkoski on Vimeo.

Alongside people who posted photo galleries and video [mk], Vnukot provided multimedia coverage of this event, too.

The atmosphere was tense, and tears appeared on many faces. When the cake arrived, a few words were spoken about how the cake should be tasted by the people in parliament, so that they know how bitter it is. The lit candles were placed in a circle around the table with the cake shaped like a human corpse, with a plastic bag over its head.

Aleksandar Neshkoski, Martin's brother, gave a statement for the media: “On this day, Martin should have turned [23], but unfortunately, he went to that fatal celebration, where his life was taken in an awful manner; they kept it a secret a long time, also in an awful manner… Today, everybody was invited, from the government and the opposition, and all of Macedonia, to come and show support, to unite as one so that this case can be solved. But, there's nobody from the government nor the opposition, the people are left to their own will… May god help us all.”

Then, it was decided that the cake with the plastic bag over its head to be placed in front of the building of Parliament. Everybody headed towards the barricades, along side the cake. But there, the police stood in the way and stopped them from entering the yard of the state institution.

After a brief verbal confrontation and some shoving, the policemen decided to allow the cake to be placed in the lawn. At that point, the people carrying the tray took advantage of the situation and lack of attention and ran to the desired spot.

At the end of the protest, the police did not allow photo journalist to come close enough to photograph the cake. That's when the crowd started shouting: “Freedom of press!”

The people who have participated in the protests during these three months claim that the actions will continue. #protestiram (“I protest”) is the Twitter tag still used for discussions and announcements.

This post is part of our special coverage Macedonia Protests 2011.

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