Friday, September 23, 2005

Myth: Milosevic staged the events that allegedly prompted him to say “Nobody must beat you”.

FACT: Milosevic’s detractors claim that the events which prompted Milosevic to say “Nobody must beat you” were all stage-managed by Milosevic. They claim that the Serbs, as part of Milosevic’s elaborate plan, deliberately attacked the police in order to get them to “beat” them, thus enabling Milosevic to say his famous and allegedly combative and threatening words, “Nobody must beat you”.

The only source for this reading of events are comments that Solevic, an organiser of Kosovo Serb rallies who was present then, is said to have made to the BBC for their “Death of Yugoslavia” documentary. This documentary presented him as saying that two trailers full of stones had deliberately been parked near the Cultural Centre, which the Serb protestors threw at the police in order to provoke an aggressive response. There is quite a major problem with this single piece of evidence, however - Solevic never said what the documentary claimed, and his words were misrepresented by the BBC. (
http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2005-02-08.htm, http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2005-02-09.htm)

Solevic had in fact explicitly said that the stones were there to “broaden the pavement”, and “wasn’t for the police”. He did indeed describe the Serb citizens reaching the stones and throwing them at the police, but only after they had been attacked, at which point they “started fleeing”, came across the stones, and threw them at the pursuing police. The claim that the Serbs provoked the police with the stones therefore only makes sense if you completely reverse the chronology of events. The Federal Secretariat of the Interior actually established a commission to look into what happened at this meeting, and found that the police had acted coercively and unlawfully, and concluded that the behaviour of the gathered citizens “cannot be assessed as negative or extremist. There was no significant violation of law and order." (
http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2005-01-25.htm)

The idea that the citizens knew of the stones’ presence, and that Solevic had planned their retreat to them, is also contradicted by what he actually said: “We didn’t know what was going on. Our people started fleeing”. Solevic’s words also refute the idea that Milosevic had planned this - he describes Milosevic being informed of the events as passing on a “hot potato” which Milosevic couldn’t “pass… to anybody else”. The sole piece of “evidence” for the claim that the events of April 24th 1989, therefore, is actually solid proof that that claim is not true.


In fact, even if we put aside Solevic’s actual account of the events, and the Federal investigation into the matter, the idea that the whole thing was staged still makes no sense. Milosevic is alleged to have prepared all these events in order to enable him to respond with “Nobody must beat you”, and rally the crowd with nationalism. But Milosevic’s “Nobody must beat you” was said to a small group of people within earshot, who had come up to him and said to him “We are being beaten, President. The police is beating us” (
http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2005-02-08.htm) - it was only a little later that loudspeakers were rigged up on the window to enable Milosevic to address the whole crowd. Why, if he had engineered all this havoc in order to say those words, did Milosevic just address them to a handful of people nearby, and not to the whole crowd? That clearly doesn’t make any sense.

And then there is what Milosevic said to the whole crowd once the loudspeakers were set up. Having allegedly engineered the perfect moment for a combative and nationalist speech, did Milosevic then make such a speech? No, he just calmed the people down, saying that “we have to work to hear out all your delegates… allow us to hold a meeting, not a rally. There will be no use from any rallies.” (http://www.milosevic-trial.org/trial/2005-01-25.htm) After those words, order was restored completely, the citizens gathered outside gradually dispersed, and the meeting inside proceeded (for another thirteen hours). Once again, the facts are inconsistent with the anti-Milosevic propaganda.

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