In June 2005, a corporation called Crnotravac cut down all the trees in Peti Park, a small park in Belgrade, with the aim to build a five storage high commercial centre. The neighbourhood doesn't accept this, and has started an impressive struggle to safe the park.
On July 15, the neighbours of Peti Park organised a street event to show their determination to keep defending their park. The event was supported by the Art and Activism Caravan. Dragan Djurosinovic, Jasmina Dobric and Mirjana Zupunski, neighbours of the park, explain about the fight for the park.
The current state of the park
The park again...
The local campaigners
Another one printed...
Previously police stopped neighbours from entering the park
More of a previous action
What happened to the park?
On June 11 last year, all trees of Peti park were cut, and the playground was broken down. It was done in the middle of the day, while we were at work, at school and at home. We were not informed about this, it was a total surprise. In the evening a lot of neighbours gathered in the park. We were confused and very angry, and we decided to start defending the park. This neighbourhood is very diverse, we have different political ideas, but this is an issue that unites us all. We're not just defending the park, we are defending the freedom the live. We need a place to relax and breath and to raise our children. In the park children were playing on the playground, old people had benches to sit. The park is very important for the neighbourhood.
What about Crnotravac?
Crnotravac is a corporation owned by Mile Ristic, a businessman who builds and owns buildings all over Belgrade, and makes a lot of money like that. Because he's rich, he thinks he can do whatever he wants ignoring the rights and needs of people. He thinks that he can just take our park from us and use the ground to make money. We are fed up with people like that. For us this is a fight against privatisation, a fight for protecting our civic rights against big companies.
How do you defend the park?
We protect it physically. Every time Crnotravac sends bulldozers and trucks to continue the destruction of the park and start building the commercial centre, we occupy the park. We have megaphones and two sirens to inform everybody to immediately gather in the park. Hundreds of people come, from children to old people. In a peaceful way we make it impossible for them to start working. One time they tried to build a fence around the park, so that we wouldn't be able to enter the park anymore. But we broke it down, and it felt like a victory to enter the park again. Crnotravac has now tried to start building seven times, and every time we have managed to stop them. There is a strong neighbourhood feeling because of our fight for the park. We got to know each other better and it's great to work together. After new years eve, we bring the christmas trees and planted them around the park. They cut most of them, but next year we'll build them again.
How do the authorities react?
The problem is, that in Serbia business and politicians are often very close. Crnotravac has a lot of contacts with corrupt politicians, and has paid some of them to get the permission for destroying the park. Some politicians give us verbal support, but in practice the authorities can't and don't want to stop Crnotravac. The Belgrade municipality refuses to communicate with us, and hasn't done anything concrete to support us. It's a fight between the neighbourhood and the corporation.
What do you think will happen?
We want to defend the park at any cost, but we are also afraid. So far, the police has been fair and hasn't used any force. But the last time Crnotravac tried to start the building, in June, they had hired private security forces. These private security people are like maffia, they use violence to get what they want. An old lady was hit on the head and the back, she had to be taken to hospital. We're afraid that next time they will use more violence against us. But it's very important that we continue. We refuse to give up our park. Money is not all, we are going to prove it.
Art and Activism Indymedia