100,000 take to streets in protest against Milosevic

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) — In the largest protest ever against Slobodan Milosevic, more than 100,000 people marched through the capital Monday, hurling eggs at government buildings and accusing the Serbian president of stealing municipal elections.
People cheered from balconies as protesters coated the facades and windows of Milosevic’s downtown office, City Hall, the state-run TV and the Politika newspaper in yellow. Huge columns of demonstrators stamped their feet and chanted “we won’t give up our victory!”
In the past, Milosevic has cracked down on such protests. As the old Yugoslav federation descended into war in 1991, he brought tanks onto the streets of Belgrade to crush demonstrations in which two people were killed.
On Monday, at least 10 busloads of riot policemen and armored vehicles were seen in streets and parks, but the protests broke up peacefully. Opposition leaders called for more protests on Tuesday.
“We are daily picking leaf by leaf off their dictatorship,” Zoran Djindjic, an opposition leader, told at least 100,000 people who jammed downtown Terazije Square and overflowed into nearby streets. “This is the democratic revolution that Serbia has been awaiting for years.”
“This is the biggest revolution of all,” he declared. “You must hold on.”
The crowd responded, “Thieves! Thieves!” and “Thieves to jail!”
Milosevic, the man accused of instigating the Bosnian and Croatian wars, deftly has used his control of the media and an ability to outmaneuver the fractured opposition. He dominates what remains of Yugoslavia — Serbia and tiny Montenegro — despite many social and economic troubles.
The economy has been ruined by mismanagement and economic sanctions imposed for Milosevic’s support of Serb rebels in Croatia and Bosnia. Hundreds of thousands of educated young people have left, replaced by rural refugees from the neighboring republics.
Milosevic since has turned peacemaker, and the United States depends on him to keep far-right Bosnian Serbs from completely rejecting the year-old Dayton peace pact.
The opposition would have no such influence over Bosnian Serbs, and it is doubtful his opponents have the muscle to oust him. But the protest could be a sign of more trouble building for the Serbian president.
On Monday, university students joined a week of demonstrations by other opposition supporters to form the biggest protest against Milosevic. On March 9, 1991, some 90,000 people demonstrated before Yugoslavia splintered and war broke out.
This time, protesters are angry that courts have annulled local election victories in dozens of Serbian cities by the four-party opposition coalition Zajedno, or Together. The courts are seen as controlled by Milosevic.
The students issued a statement saying that the court rulings represented “a serious violation of human rights and an attack on the basic principles of democracy.”
Acting on complaints filed by Milosevic’s ruling Socialists, a court on Sunday annulled election results for the Belgrade city council, where Zajedno appeared to have won a majority.
Official results from a runoff vote on Nov. 17 gave the opposition 60 of 110 seats in Belgrade’s city council. The court ruling Sunday erased 33 opposition seats.
Another opposition leader, Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said that despite their cooperation with Milosevic on Bosnia policy, “We expect full support from European countries and the United States, and President Clinton.”