Yugoslav police pressuring Milosevic's opponents
October 2, 1999
From Correspondent Alessio Vinci
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- After clashing for two consecutive days with riot police, opposition supporters in Yugoslavia eased away from a confrontation with police in the Belgrade district where Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic lives.
The leaders worried that another night of violence could further strain demonstrators weary from 11 days of rallies.
"Milosevic is the one who is provoking violence all over the place, for all these years," opposition leader Milan Protic said. "We are trying our best to avoid that and at the same time to keep constant pressure on him."
Opposition leaders had called on protesters to drive to Milosevic's Dedinje neighborhood, hoping to create a massive traffic jam that would clog all roads going in and out. But traffic police, backed by water cannons and armored personnel carriers, prevented cars from moving toward the area, and the expected congestion never materialized.
About 10,000 people later attended a rally in Belgrade's main square.
"Being here today is the bravest thing in Europe," Zoran Djindjic, a key leader of the Alliance for Change, told the crowd. "But this will be the biggest victory in Europe because this is the last dictatorship in Europe -- and we will crush it."
Opposition leaders said they would march to a local hospital to visit victims of police beatings on two previous nights. Belgrade media said about 30 people were injured Thursday when police swept into a march as the crowd reached a bridge over the Sava River.
The opposition's biggest dilemma is how to keep enough people in the streets to force Milosevic to step down while avoiding a direct confrontation with a police force that has shown no restraint in using violence -- and has a warrant out for the arrest of one activist.
Cedomir Jovanovic, who has been instrumental in organizing the rallies, is the publisher of an anti-government bulletin distributed throughout the country. Belgrade prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him, and his lawyers claim no specific reason was given.
"The government misuses the legal system very selectively," attorney Biljana Kovacevic Vuco said. "They are using legal arguments against political opponents."
Claiming they have evidence of financial irregularities, police have ordered the closure of an independent newspaper, which also prints Jovanovic's bulletin and thousands of anti- Milosevic leaflets. Yugoslav police can detain people for questioning for up to 72 hours.
Jovanovic fears the next step is his arrest. He was escorted to Friday's rally by thousands of supporters, who shielded him all the way to Belgrade's main square.
Those kinds of measures -- and the clashes between demonstrators and riot police -- have been making life harder for many Yugoslavs, who may not find enough energy to come out and protest at the end of the day.
Recent polls indicate that more than 80 percent of the population in Yugoslavia is dissatisfied with the Milosevic government.
The opposition is still struggling to find ways to translate this public discontent into political action. But opposition leader Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement said the protests would not force Milosevic to step down.
"People are not ready for radical actions," he said. "Milosevic is ready for civil war, for bloodshed."
Serbs keep block on Kosovo highway; demand better security
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