The tents are gone, the protests continue

Dozens of pigeons gathered in the “Woman Fighter” park in the center of Skopje are feeding on the crumbs of bread and other food that was left around the ASNOM monument. The scattered paper and one portable toilet simulate that until recently “someone was living there”. Among the branches of the nearest tree is the flag of Macedonia. The tents that were set up for months by the Parliament are no longer there. They disappeared the night before Tuesday. Only in the middle line of the October 11 Boulevard a double fence still stands, set up for the few protesters who protested every afternoon against the name agreement with Greece.

The activists of “Macedonia Boycotts” came to see what remained of their temporary homes. They turned their heads in disbelief and cannot understand what had happened.

“We were here till midnight, we talked, exchanged opinions, we lit a fire, we kept as warm as we could. The majority of us then went home,” said the activists of “Macedonia Boycotts”.

They claim that the tents were removed under orders from the ruling government and with the assistance of the police. They testify that the action for clearing the area in the strict center of Skopje was done very quickly.

“An excavator and four trucks arrived sometime after one o’clock in the morning. They took the tents up in the air and left. They obviously knew when most of the people went home because of the cold weather. There was no one to resist, but just in case, there was a police vehicle next to them. And now, mind the irony: in the morning, the commander of the police station in Centar asked if we have seen anything so they could capture the thieves, said the activists of “Macedonia Boycotts”.

They are convinced that it is a violation of their democratic right to protest, especially since their gatherings were not violent. They believe that this is just another proof of the undemocratic nature of society and the methods used by the government to remove all opponents. They encourage themselves that this will make them even stronger and more unified.

“Of course, we will continue with the protests. We plan to go return the tents, we will make further arrangements. We will never agree with changing the name, and we told the same to the Members of Parliament. It is not too late to resign. We demand their resignations,” emphasize the activists from “Macedonia Boycotts”.

The City of Skopje later admitted that they had issued the order to remove the tents. Representatives of the City of Skopje inform that the tents were removed because they were set up illegally, and that whatever is found there is treated as waste.

“No one asked for permission to gather and set up tents, and they were illegally sitting there for months. When the crew went to remove them last night, there was no one in the tents, so it was not a camp. What has been found has been set up and treated as waste,” the City of Skopje said.

Everyday protests of “Macedonia Boycotts”, which later turned into blockades on the frequent streets in Skopje, as well as on the highways across the country, created anger among some of the citizens who could not fulfill their daily duties on time.

“Everyone has the right to protest, but ten, twenty or thirty citizens cannot obstruct the movement of the remaining hundreds of thousands. The buses go around, the taxi drivers go around, the cars get stuck in traffic, which is typical for Skopje on normal days, even more at 6 pm and in the days of New Year’s fever,” commented an elderly citizen who came to the park to make sure that the protesters’ tents have been removed.

The tents were set the day after the October approval of the first phase of the ratification of the Prespa Agreement. First on the street in front of the Parliament, then in the park. Opponents of the change of name had the chance to socialize with like-minded people there, conversations were organized and everyone had the chance to give speech. However, they were poorly visited, and no major political party stood behind them. There are no estimates on how much damage has been done with the blockades of traffic.

Goran Adamovski