Author: Ivana Srdikj
Photos: Martin Stojanovski
Since June 6, 2011 up until today, youngsters in Macedonia have been asking themselves whether they live in a safe place. After young Martin Neskovski was killed by a police representative, Macedonian citizens gathered to speak out against police brutality and to ask for justice. Once news were spread via Twitter and Facebook, mainly young people embarked on a protest parade through the city streets in Skopje to peacefully express their indignation. Similar rallies have been held in Veles, Prilep and Bitola.
Namely, on June 6 in the midst of the election victory celebration of the Macedonian ruling party VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), 22-year-old Martin Neskovski was beaten to death by a police officer on the Skopje City Square. First, there were negations of the event with the police claiming that there was no murder, so that 2 days later, on June 8, the police officer confessed to beating death of the young boy.
The event sparked outrage throughout the city the very next day; mainly young people organized themselves to protest and ask for justice. No matter the age, no matter the social status, or the ethnic background, people gathered on daily basis since June 6 up to now to non-violently express their righteous anger.
Peacefully parading through the streets of Skopje, protestors stopped in front of the government, the parliament, the police ministry, the court etc. displaying black flags as well as banners like “End of Police Brutality”, “Justice for Martin” etc.
If you were part of the protest, you could have heard questions like: “Weren’t they supposed to protect us and stop the violence instead of DOING VIOLENCE?”, “Is this a police state?” spreading out in the crowd.
The protestors’ meeting place is usually near the Memorial House of Mother Teresa in the center of the city, and, thenceforth they were starting their parade. The protestors are more and more organized as the time is passing by, including banners, megaphones, and other means as their requisites. More importantly, they have been growing in number. Besides the parading, protestors held open discussions about cases of police violence.
Also, the protestors signed a petition that was sent to the Ministry of Interior. In the petition, the protestors listed demands as asking for justice for Martin i.e. proper punishment for the accused police officer and the accomplices, a resignation of the Minister of Interior, a revision of the police law to provide stricter civil control over police, stricter rules for hiring new police officers, etc.
“The murder of a young human being on June 6 in Skopje, on the City Square, united us all”, says in the petition that was read during the protest over the previous weekend and submitted to the government. ”We feel directly compelled to protect the right to life, safety and direct participation in our democracy.”
The quick reply of the Ministry said that some of the demands were illogical and unreal while the rest had already been fulfilled. This brought to more furious reaction. Protestors are not satisfied with the reply; therefore, they will continue the protest. They say: “As youngsters free of any political pressure or influence, we are not only dissatisfied with the reply that the Ministry of Interior gave us as an answer to our petition, but we are also deeply hurt by the irony and cynicism which does not befit the style of a formal reply by a state institution.”
There have also been attempts of accusing the protest to have been politically organized by the major opposition party SDSM (Social Democratic Union of Macedonia), however, youngsters strongly disapproved of these assertions.
You should have been, at least once, among these protesting crowds to feel the spirit of youth, to feel the energy of struggle for a better future, to feel the desire for a more righteous society. If you were there, you would have been taken by all these emotions and joined them in pursuing their cause. It is a promising crowd that wants a better and safer society. Adults should also take part in this protest since they are affected as well; if yesterday it was Martin who died, tomorrow it could be a child of their own.
After twenty days of protesting, youngsters do not intend to stop until they are heard. ”It is an absolutely peaceful protest!”, “Let them hear us!”, “It’s time to change something” and “We are not violent” – shouted the demonstrators holding their hands up in the air.
“We are continuing to protest every day on the streets as we have done it so far until something starts to change in this society. Actually, we will not stop here after receiving clear evidence of what really happened and we will continue sending the petition to every institution until we feel that something begins to change in this state.” – stated one of the demonstrators.
Non-violently and non-politically, the youngsters are vigorously fighting against police brutality. Extremely worried about their future and how things are done in their country, they will continue the protests. They will continue parading peacefully through the streets of Skopje (and hopefully in other cities as well) asking for a better future. They do not plan to stop until they are heard. “Yesterday it was Martin, tomorrow it could be you!” is one of the slogans that resounded from the very beginning of these calm protests.
Editor’s note: You can see more from a huge protest taking place on 25 June 2011 – the day of a Constituent Assembly – where the protesters intended to make themselves more visible in manifold ways: submitting the petition, “hugging” the building of the Parliament and many performances on this Youtube link.