Red Star fans tell of the day police met
By Lutz Kleveman
( Filed: 07/10/2000)
FOR 10 years Alexander Bozic saw police shields turned against
him. Now he was holding one in his hands, like a trophy. "It's
war booty", the young man said as he basked in the sun on
stairs leading up to the burnt-out federal parliament.
Tens of thousands of joyful revellers filed past, savouring the
atmosphere of free Belgrade. He told his friends: "I took
the shield from a special police agent." As a member of the
vast crowd which stormed parliament, Mr Bozic braved tear gas
and baton charges. His friend Zlatan Milanovic remembered: "When
we first tried to enter the gates the police came out and beat
He showed a large bruise on the arm but shrugged his shoulders:
"When you've been fighting them for 10 years you learn how
to dodge the worst blows." Mr Milanovic wore a T-shirt of
the Red Star Belgrade football club whose fans led the attack
on the federal parliament yesterday.
The hooligans have for years been in the forefront of the anti-Milosevic
opposition and clashed regularly with the police forces. In May
they beat special forces into retreat during a battle in the centre
of town, chanting the opposition hymn: "Slobo, serve Serbia
and kill yourself". Deeply embarrassed, the Milosevic regime
prohibited the singing of the hymn at football matches.
Mr Bozic added: "We had no fear. At some point you forget
all fear." But when the crowd attacked a second time the
unexpected happened. The police stopped the beating and withdrew.
"I grabbed the shield of the cop right in front of me and
for a few seconds we were tearing it back and forth. I looked
him in the eye, and suddenly he let go."
In a few seconds, everything had changed and the Serbian revolution
was truly under way. "We were so many, that made all the
difference. It was a stampede." How did the policeman react?
"He kissed me," the 30-year-old said, stroking his white
bandana which read "Aggressive". "We hugged on
the steps, then we ran into the building together."
No desire for revenge, after all the beatings? "No, it was
all over right there. It was instant forgiveness." Once inside
the building demonstrators ran past more policemen scurrying to
hide behind furniture. They rushed from door to door in the endless
corridors, searching for the rooms where the electoral commission
had stored the ballot papers.
When they found the stacks of ballot papers on the first floor
they ripped them up, threw them out the windows and set them on
fire. Mr Bozic admitted to a real adrenalin rush as he stormed
in: "I wanted to show to the world how many votes for Milosevic
had been stolen." Then the coffee shop employee took a white
ballot paper from his bag.
The fringes burned, it showed a cross in front of Milosevic's
name. "But look, it is not folded in the middle. That shows
it was never thrown into a ballot box." Then Mr Bozic, who
fought as a Yugoslav army soldier for three wars, whispered: "Milosevic
stole not just votes, but 10 years of our lives."
Now the football fan wants an end to communism, and a return
to monarchy. Looking at his shield trophy, Alexander said: "I
do not ever want to see this thing again in Belgrade."