- Posted June 13, 2012 by
When Fear Disappears: Protests in Banja Luka Entering Third Week
Unique ongoing protests in Banja Luka, second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are entering their third week. The protests, started on May 29, were originally aimed at protecting the environment from developers backed by the corrupt city, entity and state officials. They have now morphed into a more overtly political protest against the completely deteriorated economy, non-existent rule of law, corruption and illegal gaining of wealth by the local tycoons, all under the umbrella of politicians, including the Mayor of Banja Luka, Dragoljub Davidovic and the President of the Serbian entity, Milorad Dodik.
Hundreds of environmental protestors gather daily in the endangered park, called ‘Picin Park,’ in the center of Banja Luka. These protests have united citizens of all social classes, status, and religious beliefs, and are emerging to become a symbol of the fight for the restoration of human dignity. Although the construction work in the park is well underway, the protests have not ceased.
The campaign began organizing itself through online social networks. The Facebook group ‘Park is Ours' quickly garnered more than 46,000 members, more than any such group organized in Bosnia and Herzegovina through a social network. Sympathizers from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world have started sending photos of themselves holding small banners stating their support for the protesters in Banja Luka and their fight to preserve the city's green lungs from developers. Most recent support was received from Professor Viñas Enric, an architect from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, and Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich, Director of Master Studies for Restoration of Cultural Monuments at the same university. “Full support for protection of this beautiful park is coming from both students and faculty of our university. Destruction of heritage is a mistake that cannot be corrected later on. Protection of heritage, such as parks, nature, and memories of all people who use them should be an obligation for all areas and their officials. We hope that your demands will be justifiably met, and we will be at your disposal to further support the campaign”, said Dr Prozorovich.
Fliers circulated by the protesters noted that such gatherings were not against the law and were intended to end the climate of political fear.
“When fear disappears, tyrants, dictators, autocrats and false authorities start to fall,” the fliers read. “It has started and will not end here.”
Psychologist Srdjan Puhalo said that the park was just a trigger for the accumulated anger of citizens of Banja Luka: “Unbearable economic, social, and political situation has led to the public reaction of a group of people in which they expressed their disagreement with the current situation, city and Entity affairs.”
Professor at the College of Philology of University of Banja Luka, Dr Danijela Majstorovic, also participates in protest walks, alongside her students: “We found ourselves in a situation where we reached the rock bottom. If we would analyze the structure of people attending the protests, we may find professors, doctors, artists, students, labor workers, people from all social classes united around the environmental protection fight, but also around the fact that they are drowning, and see these protests as a helping hand which would direct the light back on important issues, and provide them with the renewed feeling of being important again, not just an anonymous electoral body who will do as they are told.”