SPLIT: 150 THOUSAND TIMES "WE ARE ALL MIRKO NORAC"
by S. Setka, Z. Sagolj, M. Ljubic
Slobodna Dalmacija, Split, Croatia, February 12, 2001
SPLIT - More than 150,000 Croatian patriots on Sunday gathered on Split's waterfront (popularly called Riva), carrying Croatian banners and pictures of the Homeland War hero, Mirko Norac. This was the biggest ever protest rally in support of General Norac and the protection of the foundations of the Croatian state organized under the slogan "All of us are Mirko Norac" by the Main Headquarters for the Protection of the Dignity of the Homeland War. It demanded that the Government stop prosecuting the creators of the Croatian state and call early elections for all levels of government.
Many speakers from the Main Headquarters, political parties and other associations appealed for the Croatian unity and the protection of national interests, while Mladen Grdovic welcomed all those present with a song. The biggest applause was earned by the parents of General Norac and the 11 retired generals.
Racan and Mesic: No Pasaran!
"Gone are the days when the authorities could sell Croatian people for thirty pieces of silver. We will not allow Croatia to become a protectorate of the Socialist International, or the best Croatian sons to be arrested for the Balkan interests. Our message to Racan and Mesic is - No pasaran!" said the head of the Main Headquarters for the Protection of the Dignity of the Homeland War, retired Colonel Mirko Condic. He expressed special gratitude to the bishops of the Split Metropolitan See and Lika-Senj Diocese for their support, and to Split's soccer club Hajduk. "We on the Riva are the living proof of Croatian unity and we are sending this message to the authorities: You won't put the legend of the Homeland War on trial!"
"Mesic and Racan seem to want Croatia to kneel down in front of Serbs and beg for forgiveness. By putting Norac on trial they want to put the whole Croatian army and nation on trial," warned Condic, calling on the Croatian people not to be taken in by the authorities' accusations. "For, the trial of Norac is the trial of Croatian freedom, and the freedom of Norac is the freedom of the Croatian people. As long as we the creators of the Croatian state are alive there will be no trial against Norac." Condic also called on the Croatian Government to step down and call elections if it is unable to feel the mood of the Croatian people.
Greetings from "Hawk"
A telegram of support was sent by the commander of the defense of Vukovar, Mile Dedakovic Jastreb [Hawk], who is currently in hospital, as well as the Split water polo club Posk. In the name of the Society of Alkar Knights, Mate Jukic stated that the Croatian people would not renounce freedom and Croatian knights. Their fight was honourable and sacred, just as the fight of all Croatian defenders was. And then he addressed alkar Duke Mirko Norac: "Duke, we are waiting for your command for the 286th alka."
Split Mayor Ivan Skaric, a vice-president of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and the only one from the governing coalition to get on the stage, advised Croatian Radio-Television (HRT) to broadcast the rally on all of its three channels so that no one could speak of a handful of protesters. "They in Zagreb say I'm a fool. I don't care. But are we all here fools? Are we fools because we do not want to give up and surrender what we created here in 1990," said Skaric, which was greeted with tumultuous cheers from the crowd. Split-Dalmacija County Governor Branimir Luksic [from the HDZ] stated that the Croatian people would not allow the protests to degenerate into riots, adding, "Today it is decided that those who died for Croatia did not fall in vain, and that those alive will not live in vain."
In the name of the present generals, the former general of the army, Janko Bobetko, stated: "We have passed our test on the fronts all over Croatia and you can count on our fight until the last breath. This is our land , and we'll fight for it. Gentlemen in power, are you going to send the creators of the Croatian state to The Hague? You'll go to The Hague, if need be!"
The meeting was also greeted by a representative of the Croatian Federation of Trade Unions, Jozo Maric, stressing: "We want elections. Down with communists!" Support was also expressed by Ivan Protrka, in the name of the Co-ordinating Committee of Homeland War Associations, Ante Karanusic, in the name of Split University students, and Bosko Cavka from the Split Sports Federation. Marko Liovic, the head of the Association of Disabled Homeland War Veterans (HVIDRA), had this message to send to the current power-holders: "You are a handful of people, not us. At least one million of people throughout Croatia are with us. It is here that the "storm" comes to a halt. May it start blowing in Zagreb and chase away the wind form the east [Serbia]." The same views were expressed by Darko Milinovic, Nenad Ivankovic, Tomislav Mercep, General Ane Roso, Ivan Gabelica, Mate Brajkovic, Zvonimir Separovic, Stjepan Lozo, Goran Dodig, Anto Kovacevic, Anto Djapic, and Ivo Sanader, the president of the HDZ, who stated that Croatian people had never knuckled under, nor would it now.
Luka Podrug: This is Croatian Army
The most tumultuous cheers were received by Luka Podrug, deputy to the chairman of the Main Headquarters, who was constantly interrupted by applause. He said that the treasonous authorities would fall because, by issuing an arrest warrant for General Mirko Norac, they had shot themselves in the foot. He urged the protesters not to pay the Croatian Radio-Television (HRT) subscription fee, because the HRT it is YUTEL [Yugoslav TV], not the Croatian TV. He called for new elections and a change of government. He told the persecutors of General Norac and all Croats that they would not have enough policemen and soldiers because the entire people, in Split and all over Croatia, is the Croatian Army.
The iconography of the protest rally was made up from hundreds of Croatian flags, as well as those of wartime military units and associations of war veterans, disabled war veterans... Many photos of General Norac could also be seen, and the placards included the following messages: "Faster Red Rats" above a drawing of a chariot driven by Carla del Ponte and pulled by Mesic and Racan; "Communists: Beliburg! 1971! 2001?"; "Croatian Judas - remember that you cannot betray all Croats"; "Amnesty for all defenders"; "Rise Zagreb, hear the craw's call"; "Prosecute traitors, not heroes"; "Hands off our Holy War"; "Try Partisans and Chetniks [Serbs] for war crimes, stay away from Croatian defenders"... The message "Good bye comrade" on one of the placards was directed to president Mesic. Every mention of president's name provoked loud salvoes of whistles. Many insults were directed against President Mesic, Racan and Vesna Pusic.
Translated by the Croatian Information Center and M.Kocic