It may be just me, but there seems to be something inherently wrong with so-called “people’s protests” which are in actual fact not organised by the people themselves, but by those working in state institutions.
Slobo used them to great effect in the late ‘80s, bussing in the confused, ignorant and fearful for the yoghurt revolution and similar managed pantomines that collapsed autonomous governments in Vojvodina and Kosovo presaging the years of misery that followed.
Then, as now, the “people’s protests” were orchestrated for internal political gain by conservative demagogues manoeuvring against domestic opponents in a bid to retain power in Belgrade.
But history repeats itself, as tragedy or farce. And at the “people’s protest” this evening, Vojo K. clearly got his rocks off from a crowd, that based on organisers' claims, was larger than the number of people who actually voted for him at the last parliamentary election.
There was the characteristic fiddling and wailing, but the number of supporters was more than Vojo has been accustomed to in recent years and it showed.
There are some lovely pictures of him on the B92 gallery. Arms akimbo or suit buttoned down, when he smirks, there’s a bit of the elderly Elton John about him in one , and Italian demagogue/amateur opera singer in another.
As in Slobo’s time, the speeches harked back to World War II, with Vojo’s stablemate, Tomislav Nikolic implicitly comparing the US and EU states recognising Kosovo to Adolf Hitler. Old Nik even showed a bit of leg, issuing vague threats hinting of violence, which nevertheless somehow lacked the colour and sincerity of his boss.
One of the most glaring untruths, obvious to even the partially sighted, was visible when Nikolic declared that “Today we are all the same, today there are no differences”. This, despite the fact that the president of the Republic was not present, together with the representatives and activists from the democratic block which at the last elections took more votes than old Nik and Vojo’s mob could pull together.
Nikolic also told the crowd that they had “organised a rally that Serbia has never seen before.”
Now, the radicals were not much in evidence on October 5, 2000, but you would think that someone might have told him how many people were in front of the parliament that day, and what they did back then.
Similarly, for Djindjic’s funeral, it’s unlikely that the gravedigger was amongst the invited guests, but he could have heard about the hush emanating from the crowds that day, and of the dignity, collective sadness and genuine sorrow.
In addition to the mis-placed rhetoric of the night, the dilligence of law enforcers left something to be desired and Vojo will have some difficulty explaining to the US government and others in the coming days why the police, under his party’s control, posted no guards at the US embassy, subject to one attack already and quite clearly the most obvious target in town.
Attacking US embassies is nothing new, but for a government to post no police to guard it on the most sensitive day in the past seven years, while providing, in effect, the looters with a holiday and free transportation to expedite their activities, must be a first in the annals of anti-Americanism.
I mean, if you want the US embassy sacked, you should have the balls to say so out loud to the crowd, and if you don’t, then this is a case of massive incompetence.
Either way, Vojo has shot himself in the foot once again, as nationalist organised events once again end up portraying the cause in a negative light.
In defence of the vast majority of demonstrators, they went on to church and not the embassy. The problem is that these kind of “people’s protests” have unintended consequences which most decent people in that crowd and the vast majority who stayed at home, would most likely not wish on anyone.
And while the police defended B92 and eventually took on the rioters, the fact remains that those who bear most responsibility for the violence are these ageing men like Ilic and Vojo who’ve acquired a taste for a viagra the kind of same old, same old that Slobo first discovered back in ’87.