Wednesday, February 01, 2012

How did the plan play out?

(this is the fourth and final part in the "What happened on October 5th" miniseries, with parts one, two and three posted earlier)

October 4th

Kostunica won the elections on September 24th and Milosevic tried to falsify ballots. He was caught with his hands in the ballot box and people were outraged. The opposition organized series of strikes and blockades, but more popped up spontaneously. The tension rose day by day and finally the opposition put up the deadline for Milosevic to accept Kostunica’s victory for 3:00 PM on October 5th and called for a rally in Belgrade in front of the Federal parliament.
What happened in the ten days between September 24th and October 5th still remains unclear. Some police commanders openly said that they will not go against the people, but they were immediately purged . But there was quiet and intensive communication taking place between police commanders and opposition leaders. Zoran Djindjic later said that “…in the meeting on the night between Wednesday and Thursday [October 4th and 5th] many police commanders decided not to intervene. We had that information…They told us: we will receive orders, but don’t worry, we will not execute them. And this is exactly what happened.”

That seemed as a good formula. There was no need for the police to refuse orders; it was enough to ignore them; or not to try hard enough. The formula was already tested in the days following elections, and finally at Kolubara coal mines, where 7000 miners ere on strike since September 29th. These mines were essential in Serbia’s electricity production and strike would cause blackouts. On October 4th the regime ordered the police to intervene. As they were approaching the mines, the miners started calling for help, people from nearby towns and villages came to defend them. The police took over the administrative building, but did little to disperse crowds joining the strikers. The stage was set for October 5th

October 5th

Since early morning on October 5th convoys from all over Serbia were heading towards Belgrade. Following orders, the police put up barricades on roads, but did not defend them and they were easily removed by the people in convoys. By 3:00 PM, when the deadline for Milosevic expired, it was obvious that there were one million people in Belgrade , a crowd too big to be dispersed and a crowd that didn’t want to leave until they saw the end of Milosevic.

The crowd attempted the seizure of the parliament building several times but was overwhelmed with the enormous amount of tear gas fired at them. It seemed however that the tear gas did not affect the protesters. One of the police commanders radioed the headquarters: “We’re using chemistry but it doesn’t work!” One of the protesters said “Milosevic wants us all to cry when he steppes down.” The people withstood this little chemical war but did not flee. The police soon ran out of tear gas and, with no reinforcement underway, decided to retreat into the building. The crowd followed them.

By 5:00 PM Federal Parliament fell in the hands of the protestors. State Television followed and the transmission was shut down at 6:30 PM. When the crowd occupied 6th Police station in Majke Jevrosime Street, near the Federal Parliament, they seized, among other things , number of police radios, penetrating police telecommunications and creating confusion among police units all over Belgrade. When this last link with their superiors was disrupted, police officers could do nothing more than to drop their weapons and start hugging the protesters.

During the evening, one after another police units, changed sides. The Army moved some troops in the outskirts of Belgrade but decided to stay out of trouble and never attempted to reach city centre . At 9:10 PM State Television was back on air, but with a new program: few minutes before midnight they broadcasted live interview with the new president.

On October 6th, after the meeting with Vojislav Kostunica, brokered by General Nebojsa Pavkovic, Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army, Milosevic recognized the defeat. Butcher of the Balkans, man responsible for the deaths of thousands, stepped down after two hours of scuffle. Or was it after ten years?


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