Our activists attended the counter-protest organised by GDOM (VMRO-DPMNE) for some time during the evening. Our objective was not to dissuade anyone or spread the ideas for which we strive, we were there solely for the purpose of listening and observing.
It was a mass counter-protest. Although people were not cramped for space, the protesters nonetheless spread out from the Arch of Triumph to the bus stop by the Green Bazaar. The stage was set up opposite the Assembly and anti-“foreign” and hostile slogans were set on the fence facing Zena Borec Park.
The counter-protest did not have a grain of zeal. It could be easily observed that the people were forced to be there. Most of them were absent-minded and paid no heed to the speeches, or perhaps only listened to the songs. When the speaker would cry out “Hurray”, few were those that were so attentive to the speech as to know that they are also expected to respond by chanting: “Hurray”. The speakers had to infuse a lot of rage in their speeches and raise their voice so that the crowd would make notice of them at all. People were utterly oblivious to the ones speaking in a regular manner without inflection (such as Bratislav Dimitrov).
Most of the people attending the counter-protest could be observed eating pumpkin seeds, something which is almost non-existent at the anti-government protests! One either shouts and chants there or discusses with the other people around them. At the counter-protests, on the other hand, we were left under the impression that people could hardly wait for the night to draw to a close. Becoming more aware of their predicament, we were gravely saddened; while at the same time even more reassured of the legitimate need for our protests.
Those people don’t trust this government anymore! Those people can barely wait to free themselves from the shackles! Those people do not rejoice at the cries against the made-up enemies. Even when one of the speakers, Toni Mihajlovski, whose speech resembled a nazi speech from the bygone days of Hitler’s Germany, at a certain point (even though he previously called upon dying for Macedonia) said “we are doing this in the name of love, for Macedonia”, a person could be heard shouting back: “Yeah, right, for Macedonia.” When another speaker called upon the crowd to shout: “Hurray”, a small group of youth attending the counter-protest silently booed off his call. It was peculiar that several banners with slogans were put aside leaning against the nearby traffic signs or street lights on the pavement, ready for people to take them but nobody did so; they simply remained there. There were certainly other instances of silent resistance, but we only observed a very small fraction as the crowd was large. The organiser apparently needed a wire as well toward Zena Borec Park, with the aim of preventing people from scattering toward the park or Gradski Trgovski Centre.
We realised that those people need a little bit of encouragement, solidarity and support!
Very few true nationalists rejoiced at the speeches, believing that a Macedonia of the Macedonians only is possible. The remainder were not in the mood for nationalist ideas. The were there to keep eking out an existence. They were brought there by having their names ticked off lists, under threats of their jobs, of losing the bare minimum with which they can barely make ends meet. Their clothes speak volumes, they are poor people. It is therefore saddening when supposedly progressive people view them as an object of ridicule owing to the sandwiches they receive at the counter-protests. Those people deserve to be treated with dignity by the government and the remainder of the citizens, nobody should henceforward abuse their superior position so as to blackmail them for a piece of bread, for their salary…For them, as well, we should protest!
We should not look for enemies in them, we should have understanding for them and show empathy. They are being far too humiliated! We must focus on the privileged ones, the ones that could say NO, but didn’t. The ones that should but will not distance themselves from the criminal governing elite in historical times of such importance as these.
Nikola Gruevski’s days are done! This VMRO-DPMNE that did not summon up the courage to dissociate itself from the criminals is over and done with! It is a matter of time how long they will drag the agony out.
It is also a question of overriding importance – if we will lend a helping hand to the most humiliated ones, the poorest of the poor in these crucial times. Will we promise them that we will fight for a better society for them as well?
We call for solidarity! The wrath must be directed at the genuine evil and the sin must not be ascribed to the weakest ones. They must not be ridiculed! It is the only way we could have the opportunity to start shaping a better society for all.