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News 12 Sep 13

Macedonian Police Crush Park Protesters

Macedonian police used the cover of night to overwhelm green activists who had set up a camp to prevent construction in a small park in central Skopje.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Bristol park area after the police raid

At about 1am on Thursday, several hundred heavily equipped police stormed Bristol Park in Skopje, apprehending 11 activists stationed there and busting their camp, which they had set up to stop construction.

Among those apprehended were several officials from the municipality of Centar, the only municipality in Skopje run by parties in opposition to Nikola Gruevski's ruling VMRO-DPMNE party. 

They were released after being held in a police station for six hours and fined for disturbing the public order.

The Police Ministry said that the raid was “to prevent the usurpation of property” and to make it available for use by “the subject with the proper documentation”.

The park was assigned last year for the construction of several administrative buildings for state-owned enterprises and agencies.

Authorities plan to build the new headquarters of the Broadcasting Council on the site of Bristol Park, which is named after a nearby hotel.

In August, backed by a heavy police presence, the authorities removed tents set up by green activists. That action was also conducted in the middle of the night.

But the activists re-occupied the area, planted new trees on the site of the old ones and pledged to stop the start of construction.

The construction forms part of the grand government-funded makeover of the capital known as Skopje 2014.

The blockade and the police presence in central Skopje was still ongoing in the morning hours on Thursday, causing traffic jams.

As in the case of Istanbul’s Gezi Park in Turkey, where government-backed plans it redevelop it sparked nationwide demonstrations, the protests over the park in Skopje have become highly politicized.

The newly elected mayor of Centar municipality, Andrej Zernovski, who has backed the protestors, called a press conference for later on Thursday, when he is expected to announce the municipality’s next steps.

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