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Crisis in Yugoslavia

Rockers Strike Anti-NATO Chord

Montenegro: About 20,000 gather peacefully at concert to condemn American 'aggression.'

April 05, 1999|DAVID HOLLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia — At an anti-NATO outdoor rock concert staged here on a balmy spring evening Sunday by supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the music was mellow but the language was harsh.

"Americans with weak brains, people who have no conscience, are killing our kids, killing our elderly, destroying schools and bridges, shooting at newborn babies, shooting at our holy places," declared the master of ceremonies to a crowd of about 20,000 gathered in and around the central square here. Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro, which, along with the much larger Serbia, constitutes what remains of Yugsoslavia.

"Are we for defending our homeland?" the emcee continued. "Are we all Yugoslav army? We all are, with all our heart! Through singing and music, in our way we'll condemn the aggression. Through music, we'll show our resistance to the powerful beast attacking our country!"

Nervous about possible plans by the federal government in Belgrade to instigate a pro-Milosevic coup here, officials of the reformist Montenegrin government headed by democratically elected President Milo Djukanovic had feared that the concert might end with organized rioting aimed at providing a pretext for the Yugoslav army to take control from the republic's civilian government.

But the two-hour concert ended without troubles, and the crowd dispersed peacefully. The organizers announced, however, that similar concerts will be held at the same time and place today and Tuesday, which could keep tensions running high here.

Sunday's concert took place under the watchful eye of several dozen Montenegrin police. There were also some Yugoslav army troops in the crowd, although it was not clear whether they were there for security or merely to participate in the event. Security in front of government buildings was unchanged from recent days, with about a dozen Montenegrin police wearing bulletproof vests and carrying semiautomatic rifles standing guard in front of the presidential office.

Under Djukanovic, who won office in 1997, Montenegro has been strongly pro-Western and has tried as much as possible to avoid involvement in the fight between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Milosevic.

At the concert, the crowd included laughing teenagers, somber men, a few women with teary eyes and families whose members ranged from toddlers to the elderly. Many in the audience who seemed somber or sad at the start loosened up as the program progressed, and by the end most seemed to be having a good time. But nearly everyone was angry about the NATO bombing campaign, which most Yugoslavs feel is pure aggression.

The recent precision bombing of the Interior Ministry building in downtown Belgrade, the capital of both Yugoslavia and Serbia, has caused particular outrage across the nation because it forced the nighttime evacuation of a maternity hospital, with even newborn babies moved to a bomb shelter. Newspaper headlines screamed, "Bombs on Babies."

"Even Hitler did not do what the United States is doing to us now," said Majo Vujisic, 60, who listened to the concert near the back of the crowd, leaning against a car.

"They should come on the ground to visit us," he said, gesturing to the sky. "And they'll all leave in coffins if they come down."

Danica Sokovic, 23, came to the concert wrapped in a flag of the former Yugoslav federation and wearing a paper bull's-eye target, which has been adopted as a symbol by anti-NATO protesters across the country.

"We still have the former Yugoslavia in our heart," Sokovic said. She displayed a hand-held poster with one side saying, in a reference to the bombing next to the maternity hospital: "Are the 70 babies responsible? Why is NATO hitting them from the skies?" The other side said: "Clinton, you'll be cursed by Serbian mothers."

Earlier Sunday, two women selling cigarettes on a downtown street corner took a break from work to put a poster on a nearby tree declaring, "Clinton is a Satan and an alien."

"Tell him, 'Goodbye, get the hell out of my country,' " Dusanka Rakocevic, 50, told a passerby who stopped to talk. "We've had enough pain and suffering without him. How come he doesn't send humanitarian aid to us instead of bombs?"

Her friend Milijanka Lakovic, 60, chimed in: "He does not hear our screams. He's a murderer, that's all he is. He's trying out his weapons here on us. . . . We're all one with Milosevic. We attacked no one. We've been attacked for no reason at all. He's the one who introduced evil to Kosovo. His main rule was 'Stir up the fight, and conquer.' "

Despite their hatred of Clinton and support for Milosevic, the two women also spoke favorably of Djukanovic, who is seen as Milosevic's most significant political enemy within Yugoslavia.

The Montenegrin president "has made pretty good moves so far because it seems we're getting fewer bombs so far than Serbia," Rakocevic said.

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