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Dozens of Policemen Watch Hundreds of Macedonians March Against Poverty

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Macedonia, Citizen Media, Economics & Business, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Media & Journalism, Politics, Protest

As planned [1], at exactly 11:55 am, the “5 (minutes) to 12″ March Against Poverty began at the Parliament in capital city Skopje, on March 1, 2014. Photos [2] and multimedia [3] galleries from the march suggest about a thousand people participated with a high number of police officers cordoning their route. The event ended in an open-air “Concert for Dignity” at the Jadran Square.

In Macedonia, ranked among the poorest countries in Europe, every third citizen lives below the poverty line [pdf] [4].

March against Poverty in Skopje, March 1, 2014. Photo F.S. CC-BY. [5]

March Against Poverty in Skopje. Photo by author on March 1, 2014. CC-BY- 2.0

Organizers of the event, 8th of September and the Macedonian Platform Against Poverty, are demanding a change in social welfare laws to provide decent basic income for Macedonia's poorest citizens. The event proceeded peacefully, with one exception – a police officer harassed a journalist and protester.  Activist Petrit Saracini wrote [6] [mk] on Facebook:

Dobro pomina marsot i koncertot protiv siromastijata, bez incidentite koi gi najavuvaa mediumite na vlasta. Osven eden moment, koga, koj drug, ako ne policijata, povotrno prekardasi, i legitimirase snimatel, a koga direktorkata na Helsinski gi prasala sto pravat, grubo ja otturnale. Pred lugje i kameri. Ic ne im cue. Na edvaj ni 1000 lugje izvadija 1000 dzandari. Nazdravje neka im se dnevnicite. I tie gi plakjame nie.

The march and the concert against poverty went well, without the incidents ‘predicted’ by pro-government media. Except at one point, when, who else but the police, went overboard, and asked for the ID of a cameramen. When the director of Helsinki Committee asked what they are doing, she was roughly pushed to the ground, in front of people and in front of cameras. They didn't care. For maybe less than 1000 people they had 1000 armed police officers. May they spend their overtime pay in health. We pay for them anyway.

The director of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee [7], a human rights organization, Uranija Pirovska stated [8] [mk] that she intended to file a complaint with the Ministry of Interior based on a video clip that documented the event, along with eyewitness testimonies.

In September 2013, the private television channel Nova TV reported [9] and analyzed [10] [mk] a similar incident, in which police forced their cameraman to delete footage of police aggression against protesters [11] who were trying to protect a landmark Skopje public park from destruction. To date, no action has been taken against the perpetrator of this incident.

In front of the Government the protesters were met by police cordon and a cordon of ancient statues. The Government is turning the modernist facade into so-called 'baroque' style characteristic of Skopje 2014, at initial cost of EUR 9 Million. Photo: F.S. CC-BY. [12]

In front of government buildings protesters were met by a police cordon and a cordon of ancient statues- real archeological artifacts – set there in 2007. Under the Skopje 2014 project [13], the Government is turning the modernist facade into a faux-baroque style at a initial cost of 9 million euros. Photo by author. CC-BY.

The march was organized and promoted through a Facebook event page [14], a blog [15] and Twitter under the ahashtags #5до12 [16] and #5do12 [17] on Twitter.