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News 21 Jun 16

Tensions High at Mass Protest in Macedonian Capital

Tens of thousands of people showed up at the massive anti-government rally in Macedonia’s capital Skopje on Monday evening - which took place amid high tensions after the authorities missed a deadline to meet key demands.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Photo by: Sarena Revolucija

At Monday night's protest, groups of demonstrators broke the windows of the Ministry of Justice in central Skopje, tried to tear down the bronze statue of Prometheus in front of the parliament building and again threw paint balls at state institutions, which many see as symbols of former Prime Minister and leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party Nikola Gruevski’s regime.
 
The protest, dubbed “Citizens are Coming for Justice”, organised as part of the ongoing anti-government protests called the “Colourful Revolution”, started traditionally in front of the Special Prosecution, where participants expressed their support for this institution, before heading to the government building as the first stop on its route.

Addressing the crowd, activist Pavle Bogoevski repeated the immediate demands of the protesters, which included guarantees that Macedonia's Constitutional Court will not scrap the Special Prosecution, formed last year to investigate high-level crime, in which many ruling party politicians are allegedly implicated.

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Protesters also demanded a formation of a special court that would deal with cases of the Special Prosecution, the formation of a transitional government that would carry out reforms for free elections, the resignation of President Gjorge Ivanov, and for representatives from among their ranks to be included in the process that is now taking place between the country’s political parties and EU auspices to find a resolution to the crisis.

The protest came after the authorities missed a deadline, which expired on Saturday, set by the protesters to meet these key conditions.
 
During the protest, Radmila Shekerinska, vice president of the opposition Social Democrats, told the crowd of demonstrators: "This crisis has just one ending - justice and responsibility for all. Those who have stolen must be held accountable. The people demand justice and peace and say to Gruevski that it won't tolerate yet another criminal elections."

Prior to the rally, protest organisers and civil activists called for a calm and peaceful protest in an attempt to quash fears that violence may break out, especially if police tried to block the path of the protesters or if the ruling VMRO DPMNE party mobilized its own supporters, but brief incidents of violence did occur.

The protest route took demonstrators past the Ministry of Justice, which protesters again painted, this time in the colour red, and broke some of its windows.



The crowd then moved to the parliament building, where a group of the demonstrators tried to tear down the bronze statue of Prometheus which stands opposite the parliament, but police intervened in the incident, prompting the demonstrators to retreat.

The statue, part of the grand government revamp dubbed ‘Skopje 2014’, is seen to many in Macedonia as a symbol of Gruevski’s nine-year rule.

The crisis in Macedonia revolves around claims that the government, formerly led by Gruevski, illegally wiretapped over 20,000 people, among other crimes.

Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as prime minister earlier this year under the terms of the EU-brokered accord, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilize the country.

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