Croatia: Antifascist citizens show their ugly face at rally in Zagreb

Police form human shield in Zagreb - Photo:Petar Glebov/Pixell

On Friday 13 April, in the evening, several hundred visibly rowdy followers of Citizens action United Against Fascism came to Zagreb’s Ban Jelacic Square – ready to pounce upon the right-wing Croatian Civilisation /Culture Movement (HUP) gathering.

But the HUP gathering attracted barely twenty people.

The police presence was strong and they formed a human shield, determined on preventing the antifascist horde from advancing towards the HUP group.

The representatives from European ultra-right political parties and organisations, who had come to Zagreb for the banned conference and rally organised by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights stayed away from the Square. Smart move. Judging by the antifascist group’s readiness to pounce the ultra-right nationalists from European countries were expected to show up, even as by-standers.

Jutarnji List reports that one member of the ultra-right group was arrested for raising his right arm and two members of the antifascist group were also arrested, one for refusing to provide his ID.

Scuffles, spirited pushing and shoving occurred and one photo-reporter was injured, pushed to the ground.

This is not about the confrontation between two opposing sub-cultures, although the truth lies somewhere in the middle, this is about confrontation between civilisation and barbarism, ordinary people and fascist fiends (evil-doers),” said in the written invitation to rally distributed by the antifascist Citizens action group.

In analysis, there’s no doubt that if the ultra-right International nationalists conference and rally were not banned, there would have been serious violence in Zagreb on Friday.

Antifascists came ready to fight anyone or anything leaning toward the right; they distributed leaflets with hateful language; they call themselves “ordinary citizens”  and everyone else “evil-doers”, and also wrote on their leaflets that they do not want “fascist orgies in the city”.

They found no violent or aggressive gathering there, so they went on to try and create them.

The right-wing HUP group, on the other hand, said prior to announcing its rally that all Croatian presidents were “Orthodox Communists” and all Prime Ministers “Communists, members of (the Yugoslav secret service) UDBA, freemasons and gay lovers.”

There doesn’t seem anything ordinary about those in the antifascist Citizens group as far as I can see. They resurrect a part of Croatia’s of World War II history, give it life in their leaflets and label today’s right-wingers, I would say the other ordinary citizens, as evil-doers. The antifascists were more vicious than the nationalist group who label former Communists as members of Yugoslav Secret Police UDBA or freemasons …

And the antifascists’ determination to pounce on the nationalists right-wingers will according to portal continue on Saturday 14 April from 11 am in Zagreb’s central Square.

In my previous post on the rally issue I said that perhaps the former communists want the ugly nationalistic scenes to occur in Croatia, to feed their rhetoric of antifascist righteousness. And that is exactly what occurred. However, there is no righteousness in this antifascist movement, it just is plain ugly and cruel – as always.

It seems they like to call themselves anti-fascists and if there are no fascists around to act against, they just concoct them (out of the right-wing political orientation) and pin upon them a resurrection of dark memories of those who died a long time ago.

Truly, something needs to be done in Croatia to ban and outlaw the use of the word “antifascist”.

Violence and aggression should not be tolerated from any side of politics, and yet the antifascist group from Zagreb yesterday behaved as though they had a victory with their rally. If threatening and aggressive behaviours towards those who want to “express their political opinion” as HUP did, are victory, then one cannot hold too much hope that democracy and tolerance will thrive on those streets in their full glory any time soon. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Croatia: violent clashes involving Europe’s ultra-nationalists imminent

Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

As I sensed in my previous post, Croatia’s minister of interior affairs, Ranko Ostojic, has Thursday 12 April banned International nationalists’ conference and rally that were organised by Croatian Pure Party of Rights.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic confirmed the ban and stressed that the reasons for the ban had to do with one’s view of the world and political positions.

Those who in their platforms call for destruction of Croatia’s constitutional order and lay claims to parts of Croatia’s territory – and such people have been announced as participants (in the gatherings) – they can visit Croatia as tourists, but they cannot come here as political opponents,” Milanovic said.

Milanovic said that the government had a responsibility towards its citizens to oppose such ideologies.

Such things won’t be tolerated, not now and not ever,” he said.

Milanovic referred to the Hungarian ultra-right Jobbik party which has announced its arrival in Zagreb for the gathering and has publicly stated it wants to annex parts of Croatian territory to Hungary.

Such attitude could be believed if the situation was clear-cut. But it’s not.

To pour oil onto the already burning issue the Croatian Civilisation movement (Hrvatski uljudbeni pokret), right-wing political orientation, is attempting to playing a dangerous game it seems. It wants to hold a rally in Zagreb’s central Ban Jelacic Square around the same time when the banned rally was supposed to be held. It has received permission from the police to do so!

They’ve published Zagreb’s police permission, dated 11 April, to hold a gathering on Friday 13 April for “distribution of political material and expression of political views”.

While the international conference and rally organised by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights is banned, the rally being organised by the Croatian Civilisation movement is allowed!

Zagreb’s police reasons for denying the holding of the International nationalists conference and rally was that persons that engage in inciting violence were to attend (most likely meaning ultra-right parties and movements from other European countries), and Croatian law forbids such gatherings.

That’s understandable, but given that representatives from those European ultra-right wingers are going to be in Zagreb as planned, now merely as “tourists” as their events have been banned, there is every likelihood that they will be present at the rally organised by Croatian Civilisation Movement on Friday 13 April. Given that Citizens’ actions groups are geared up to hold their “Fascism – not in my city” rally the world can expect a rapid combustion of ugly proportions.

One frets that the world will not see these events in Croatia as free expressions of political views but rather as evidence, albeit warped, that fascism is still alive and kicking in Croatia.

Croatian government it seems has not thought this whole saga through, or perhaps they have? Perhaps the former communists want the ugly nationalistic scenes to occur in Croatia, to feed their rhetoric of antifascist righteousness?

And if the rally gets ugly and the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, currently in the Appeals Chamber at the ICTY, are mentioned there, one can bet one’s last dollar that at least some of the world news headlines will not be kind to them even if they played no role in the rally nor have any control over it.

If Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic is truly serious about his statement that ultra-right gatherings will never be tolerated in Croatia then he has the responsibility to ban all gatherings where there is even a minute chance of violence occurring, ultra-right nationalists joining even as by-standers.

If he does not do that then he has failed to protect Croatia’s reputation as a country that upholds its laws that ban violence. There are oodles of signs that clashes are imminent between the ultra-right and leftists on Ban Jelacic Square in Zagreb on the evening Friday 13 April, and it’s not as if Milanovic could say “I didn’t know”. If he does nothing to stop any of the announced rallies his actions can justifiably be described as reprehensible – through and through. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

International ultra-right nationalists’ conference and rally: Tempers will flare?

Photo: Boris Kovacev/Cropix

Croatian Pure Party of Rights is hosting on Saturday 14 April an international conference of ultra-right parties or movements in Europe. It’s said that after the conference the organisers plan a rally against the ICTY’s judgment against Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, of April 2011. Ultra-right wing movements or parties from Hungary, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria and France have been invited and are expected to arrive in Zagreb for the conference and rally.

The event has captured a great deal of media attention in Croatia during the past week.

Originally the conference was to be held in the rooms of Croatian Foundation, leading cultural organisation “Matica Hrvatska”, but the Foundation had a couple of days ago changed its mind and cancelled the plan to allow its rooms for the use of this event. The organisers had then booked a venue with Hotel Palace in Zagreb, and the hotel has cancelled the booking due to heavy pressure from citizens’ groups and negative reactions from Zagreb’s citizens evoked by the dust raised in the media.

Hence, Croatian Pure Party of Rights has now stated that it will hold its event – conference and rally – in Zagreb’s public square Ban Jelacic in the centre of the city.

Citizens throughout Zagreb seem set on stopping the event from happening and have come up with the slogan: “Fascism – not in my city”. Citizens’ activists groups are planning to hold their own rally at the same time as the Euro-nationalists group. Zagreb’s citizens’ activists have opened a Facebook page: “United against Fascism” and say that they’re prepared to form human shields and stop the gathering of Europe’s ultra-nationalists in Zagreb. It is not known what protection the Croatian police are planning to install around the place on Saturday, but judging by the media hype tempers will flare.

Croatian president Ivo Josipovic stated on Tuesday 10 April that he does not support this conference and the gathering of nationalistic groups from Europe in Croatia, as “among them are those that bring into question Croatian territorial integrity and practice the speeches of hatred“.

While in a democracy everyone should have the right of expressing opinion, of holding rallies, the limits must be set when rallies tend to incite violence and destruction. So far, there’s much indication that things may not pass peacefully in Zagreb on Saturday and the relevant authorities need to judge very carefully as to whether either of these two rallies (the nationalist one and the Citizens’ activists one) should be issued the green light. If they are, then security or police presence must be high, high enough to smother any sign of violence.

To my view Saturday in Zagreb is increasingly resembling a time-bomb, ready to explode. Not because of any nationalist movement being there, nationalist movements are present everywhere, but because many Croatians and their announced guests from all over Europe come from places where unemployment is high, existential despair is accentuated and a rally is just such a fertile ground to lose oneself and lash out. Not from any nationalistic sentiment or following, but out of pure personal, bottled-up frustration that simmers in all crumbling economies. Furthermore, a mention that Serbia’s ultra-right movement representatives might find their way there on Saturday send signals of possible provocation to violence.

Croatian generals in the Hague, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, do not deserve to be associated with such an event that heralds through the media all the hallmarks of profound intolerance. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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