I was asked by several friends to explain what happened today in Zagreb, and this is a short diary of what was going on in Croatian cities earlier this evening. The events that took place prior to this protest witnessed that Croatia is far from being a modern member of western civilization, and police and political pressure resulted in PR-disasters for Prime Minister Ivo “Dr. Grinch” Sanader and his cabinet.
Saint Nicklaus Day was the day when those 60.000 people who registered on Facebook were supposed to come out on streets and protest against the government in major Croatian cities.
Bear in mind that a string of on-line protests against the government brought Croatian police arresting Facebook activists, with Croatian police de facto breaking the US Constitution – as Facebook servers are located in the United States and Facebook users accept ToS agreement made under the Anglo-Saxon law.
When the day of protest came, activists saw a lot of public posters rewritten with new ones. These new ones stated that the protest has been cancelled, causing additional confusion to non-Facebook visiting crowd – but more over, police forces in smaller cities like Kutina openly warned organizers that they will attack any protesters. At the same time, Mayor of city of world-famous Dubrovnik banned the protest. The major is a party member of governing party, Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ).
All things aside, the protest can be viewed as a failure in attendance, since only 4000 people gathered in country’s capitol, additional 500 or so joined the protest in Split, while Zadar, Rijeka and Osijek witnessed couple hundred people. Overall, more than 60,000 people gave support and roughly 10% showed up. One explanation could be combination of rain and shilling campaign, another as apathy – just like US saw apathy in 2004 elections. We all know what happened in 2008 and who demolished its conservative opponent. Even Red states voted for change, and that is the lesson Croatian politicians were afraid of.
There is a big lesson to be learned here. Major victory was won even before the protests took place. For starters, Croatian government decided to abandon all of its recent controversial decisions, such as freezing salaries in the public sector, banning gifts for children of employees in the public sector and so on. So, “Grinch the Prime Minister” went back to being Doc Ivo “We are in banana situation” Sanader (his statement from failed negotiations with the Unions).
The biggest winner of this whole Anti-Facebook charade is without any doubt – Internet. In a matter of hours, news of every misstep taken by governing cabinet, governing party and their influence in the police ended up under a lamp light of independent foreign and domestic media.
You can’t stop the signal.