In an extraordinary sight only one day after police violently dispersed demonstrators in Macedonia with water cannons, smoke bombs and batons, a group of women out to protest formed a human shield around officers to protect them from provocateurs throwing glass bottles.
The women in Skopje, Macedonia's capital city, were participating in a second day of protests demanding justice after leaked recordings seemed to show officials tried to cover up the 2011 murder of Martin Neshkovski at the hands of a police officer.
On May 6, several thousand more people marched in the streets of Skopje, and the movement spread to Bitola and Prilep. The government did not repeat its demonstration of force the day before, and protests were peaceful as intended.
But in Skopje after several hours, as the crowds started to thin, a number of participants warned about the increased presence of provocateurs. A group of “football fans” wearing hoods and masks started to coalesce and throw objects at the Parliament and the police cordon separating the building from the mass of people standing or sitting on the street, lawns and in a nearby park.
News agency META.mk reported:
Although there were several attempts for provocation by fifteen protesters, protest for justice for Martin Neshkovski, which instead of in front of the Government was held in front of the Assembly, ended peacefully.
The last attempt of part of the protesters to initiate violence was prevented by group of female activists, who stood between them and the police.
A dozen protesters remained sitting on the grass in front of the Assembly and are talking.
Some participants collected waste and plastic bottles from the grass and the road, but there were some who, even though the road was put into use, didn’t allow vehicles to pass.
Most of the special forces and police vehicles left.
Few bottles and eggs were thrown at the building of the Assembly, but there were no seriously injured policemen or protesters.
Protesters called citizens to join them on a peaceful protest tomorrow at 6 pm, but the location has not yet been precisely determined.
Journalist Vlado Apostolov (@apostolov80) posted a video of the event.
For months, opposition leaders have been leaking audio recordings, which appear to confirm suspicions of a variety of criminal misdeeds committed by top government officials, including election fraud, illegal wiretapping and hiding details in the investigation into 22-year-old Martin Neshkovski's death.
Neshkovski was beaten to death in 2011 by a police officer during post-election celebrations. His killing sparked massive protests at the time, and the officer was eventually arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Following the tradition established with those demonstrations against police brutality, participants have decided to gather every day at 6 p.m. until their demands that all officials involved in the cover-up resign and face prosecution are met. On May 6, police blocked off the streets around the government building, where marchers intended to rally, so the mass of people turned around and went to protest in front of the Parliament. Several dozen protesters remained sitting in the blocked streets redirecting newcomers. Some argued that with the blockade, the government violated Article 21 of the Constitution of Republic of Macedonia:
Citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and to express public protest without prior announcement or a special license.
The exercise of this right may be restricted only during a state of emergency or war.
While the protest on May 5, 2015, counted about 5,000 participants, the second was estimated to have two to three times more. Martin Neshkovski's brother, who addressed the crowd, put the number at about 15,000.
Prior to the protests, activists using the hashtag #протестирам (I protest!) to coordinate warned people not to bring children to prevent them from being harmed in case the government ordered new violent reprisals.
Following the demonstration, Twitter users quickly identified the young woman who initiated the human shield as one of their own. @Momichet0 later responded with an explanation:
застанав зошто хулиганот ќе направи проблем и ќе избега, а на останатите ќе им се случи вчера и пак недолжно ќе го јадат ќотекот.
— Mомиче (@Momichet0) May 6, 2015
Honestly, I felt good about the praise, but I did not feel brave at the moment, nor do I now feel heroic. I was terrified.
And I didn't stand up because I like the policemen. I do not justify them and I do think that they have a choice.
I stood up because the hooligan will create a problem and then run away, and the innocent protesters will suffer the consequences like yesterday and will be thrashed again.