Meet the Civic Movement Behind the Protest Campaign "97,000 Odupri Se"

By , 21 Feb 2019, 14:36 PM Meet the People

February 21, 2019 - The Citizens' Movement  "97,000 Odupri Se" (97.000 Resist) organizes the third gathering in Podgorica on Saturday, to express the civic protest because, as stated, the dysfunctionality of all segments of the political system in Montenegro. A new gathering in front of the Prosecutor's Office building is scheduled for 23 February at 6 pm. For this occasion, we spoke with a member of the organizing committee of the protest campaign, Ilija Gajevic.

TMN: You have made it clear that the first caption for the launch of civil protests "97000 Odupri Se" is the conduct of the Supreme State Prosecutor's Office and the Special State Prosecutor's Office in the affair of the Koverta (Envelope). But, at the same time, you point out that the reasons for the citizen's revolt are unmistakably more, referring to the many affairs that have been shaking Montenegro for years. Why is this case more delicate than any previous scandal you apply?
Ilija Gajevic: This case is different because we have never before seen the malfunctioning of our legal institutions openly like this. After the "Envelope" affair, it was tragic to watch the officials as they tried to convince the citizens that what they saw did not see. And if it is true, what they saw, they would have nothing to do with it, because what they saw remains irrelevant in our legal system. At the same time, the Special State Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić the deaf of the affair, a high official of DPS Slavoljub Stijepovic, heard only once. After that he attended the session of the Presidency of the ruling party like nothing was going on.
At the same time, this case is not much more convincing than many previous affairs when the inefficiency of the system was also in place. We have always been for the sake of efficiency, and they have a "perfection", exclusively to the credible members of the ruling party for which the laws of this state do not apply in the way and to the extent that it refers to all of us gathering in the only free institution of this state - the Street.
TMN: At the second round of protests, you stressed the urgent resignation of the president of the state, Milo Djukanovic, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic, Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic, and Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Sreten Radonjic. Do you think it is possible to reach such goals institutionally?
Ilija Gajevic: No. Our requirements are directed to the unification of all progressive elements of society. They call for dialogue and the realization of the broadest possible consensus between all the progressive elements of the society. We do not trust the institutions, and we do not expect any of them. However, these same demands can also exert pressure within the institutions because, we believe, the regime officials themselves will begin to cancel obedience when they inspect finally that they are on the other side of the law and that it entails consequences for them.
TMN: One of the main issues present in public is who is behind the protest organization. Are you trying to input, control, and manage from some foreign power addresses? Who is behind the protest organization? Who are these citizens?
Ilija Gajevic: Behind the protest is now a broad, horizontal group of over thirty free citizens. Likewise, behind the demonstrations are all those who feel like second-rate citizens and become micro-leaders in their circles, writing support statuses, motivating family members, colleagues, and friends to come out and find a free walk in the streets of the capital. Behind the protest are all those who, with their photographs, video footage, and words overwhelm the media campaign run from the media addresses close to Milo Dukanovic.
TMN: Among other things, in the press, we could find out that the NGO Atlantic Association will be involved in monitoring the protest to find out who is behind them. How do you comment?
Ilija Gajevic: That's their legitimate right. We expect them to find what our answer was to the previous question. We hope that knowledge when they come to it during the monitoring process will be shared with the public.
TMN: There are several well-known civilian activists in the organizing committee. In some media, some of them are trying to show up as dangerous elements?
Ilija Gajevic: This is an expected move by the regime media. We believe that to expose these types of manipulation requires minimal mental effort, so in the vast majority of citizens, it is just the counterfeit of the desired. It strengthens confidence in our team and intent.
TMN: What, for now, are the reactions of the international community to the situation in Montenegro? Does the perception of external factors depend on the courage of Montenegrin citizens to go out into the streets and express their dissatisfaction with the political and legal situation? Is the international community also wondering "who is behind the protest in Montenegro"?
Ilija Gajevic: First of all, we are delighted with the fact that a significant number of regional and international media have conveyed the news of a peaceful gathering of over 10,000 free citizens in the streets of Podgorica. We do not think that Montenegrin citizens expect too much from the international community, bearing in mind the same international community of all the previous elections that it oversaw, despite the apparent irregularities, has been declared free, democratic and valid. The message that we have sent to Europe is that they, as far as values are concerned, have much better associates in us than in the existing regime. However, besides these positive messages, we have also asked whether they feel the responsibility for the long, unbearable DPS rule that brought us into a legal and political situation where the only independent institution in Montenegro remains the street.
TMN: Journalist Esad Kočan wrote for Vijesti a commentary on the political situation in Montenegro and the potential scenarios that might follow. What he said was that in the event of a ruling outfit, the opposition would be on a test that would show their capacity to establish a healthier and more functional system in Montenegro than the existing one. Do you see the political strengths having an ability for that?
Ilija Gajevic: Absolutely yes. First of all, we see the power of the citizen as the bearer of the sovereignty of each community. The citizen finally got his space. We also know the existence of sincere intent and willingness to work together to change and build the new system. Our organizational team is not interested in party interests. We are concerned only with cooperation with citizens, which will focus on the common goal. The prerequisite is to make a consensus about fundamental humanistic values. For now, we believe that this agreement has been reached.
TMN: In inviting citizens to join you on the "Odupri Se" Movement, you ask them to ignore all differences and disagreements among themselves, and concentrate on jointly fighting, as you say, a dysfunctional system inherent in the ruling party and its president and the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic. Montenegrin history was marked by polarised in all times and all critical historical moments. Why should we believe that this moment could be different?
Ilija Gajevic: We need to believe because all the elements necessary for this process have long since been present and mature. We think that public consciousness was activated. It is the consciousness that understands why it is essential to be free, which recognizes that we have an influence on the world around us and why it is vital that we can decide what this impact will be. We began to understand that we should not accept the decisions that others make on our behalf for their benefit, ignoring the destructive influence on society and lacking a sense of responsibility for their actions. We have to believe it, because all the messages, comments, calls we have received from fellow citizens convince that. 
We felt that there was a vast number of fellow citizens who shared our values but found no way to channel their voice, which turned out to be true. 97 000 Odupri Se is an opportunity for all of us to be citizens. The response to the protests is that this need has overcome all the differences, which are an integral part of every civilized community and ours. We will have the opportunity to bring our opinions and interests into line. But, the first goal of this movement is to create a healthy social climate, which will not resort to manipulation of differences among the citizens of this country.

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