More than 1,000 Zagreb residents and supporters chanted “prison” for Mayor Milan Bandić at yesterday’s protest in the city’s downtown square.
The demonstration, which was organized to protest the Zagreb mayor and multiple USKOK (Croatian State Prosecutor’s Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption) inductee Milan Bandić, was held at Trg bana Jelačića, the main city square, according to Index on December 21, 2019.
The protest began at 16h and was organized by a number of associations: Udruga građana Siget (the Siget Citizens’ Association), Braniteljska udruga Vidra (the Veterans of Vidra), Veterani i društvena akcija sa Zelenim odredom (the Veterans’ Association with Green Squad social action group), Udruga za zaštitu okoliša UZOR iz Resnika (the UZOR Environmental Association of Resnik), Udruga Eko-Zagreb (the Eco-Zagreb Association), Inicijativa Samoborček (the Samoborček Initiative), Inicijativa Hipodrom (the Hipppodrome Initiative), and the građanska inicijativa Zagreb bez zračenja (Zagreb Radiation-Free Initiative).
According to organizers, the protest gathered around two thousand citizens. They are planning another protest at the end of January.
Clear Message from Zagreb Protesters: Resign!
Among the messages on the banners were “Resign”, “Enough of Banditism”, “Your Mayor is poisoning you and robbing you”, “Bandić’s godfathers: You will fall into Resnik” (Resnik is a garbage dump in Zagreb), “Put the right thing (Bandić) in the right place in Remetinec” (Remetinec is a Zagreb prison), “Zagreb must not be defined by Milan Bandić”,” Whose benefitting from the garbage centers?” and “Bandić and his 26 bandits”.
City Council ‘Thieves’ Voted for Waste Removal Cost Increase
They explained that these “26 thieves” are the city council members who voted for an increase in waste collection costs and will be voting on the GUP (General Urban Plan). The protesters also exhibited four garbage bags which contain the names of the mayor and his associates, Mirka Jozić and Sanja Jerković, with one bag saying “26 city deputies.”
They called the bags “radioactive waste”, which they say will be taken to Bandić and the Zagreb City Administration on Monday where they will be placed under a pine tree.
Gordana Pasanec, from the Siget Citizens’ Association, said that they were protesting because they were fed up with Milan Bandić’s despotism, from the “golden toilets”, and benches for 20, 30, 40 thousand HRK, his bullying of city government staff, and his insults directed at journalists and citizens.
She also pointed out that Zagreb is separating only 10 percent of its waste, there is no real waste management system or fair billing and Zagreb streets are flooded with waste.
“The chaos we are witnessing is the result of a long-standing (lack of) waste management policy implemented by the Mayor of Zagreb. There is no single justifiable reason for this; no increase in services except for the systematic robbery of citizens by the Mayor through waste collection, which has benefitted individuals and interest groups for 20 years.
Branka Genzić-Horvat from UZOR said that they have been protesting for 14 years and because they are fed up with what is happening and want to make Zagreb a better place to live.
Pensioner in Wheelchair Calls Bandić ‘Garbage’
Višnja Škreblin, who was introduced as the oldest activist, said that Bandić has consolidated his power (over the city) and has humiliated and belittled its citizens. “He says ‘if you can’t pay the cost of utilities and services, then you should leave Zagreb,’” which infuriated the wheelchair-bound pensioner, who publicly called Bandić “garbage.”
“We have been witnessing this for 14 years. And it all started back in 2005 under the leadership of a mayor who has put himself at the forefront of these interest groups. The Waste Management Center is a continuation of concocted thievery, which this mayor carries out in the interest of specific groups and individuals. The Ministry of the Environment has backed an octopus who has ruled Zagreb and Croatia for many years,” she said. She also said that for 14 long years they have been closely watching every step of this mayor and now the “water has reached her throat”.
Ivan Kos from the Eco-Zagreb Association said that what Mayor Bandić is doing was “unacceptable”.
Fled Scene of Drunk-Driving Accident in 2002
Bandić, a onetime member of SDP (Social Democratic Party) was elected mayor of Zagreb in 2000 and re-elected in 2001. In 2002, Bandić fled from the scene of a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol and was forced to resign.
The Zagreb SDP had the authority to nominate a new mayor, but the city council was so dominated by Bandić that it was questionable who would be able replace him. Eventually Vlasta Pavić took over, while Bandić retained a position as deputy mayor. However, he was eager to become mayor again, and blocked Pavić’s development plans while pushing for an early election. In response, Ivica Račan (then head of SDP) tried to restrain Bandić’s activities.
Successful Power Grab Led to 2005 Reelection
At that time, the law would not allow Bandić to serve a second term as mayor. Although Vlasta Pavić attempted to strike a deal to end their ongoing feud, but Bandić eventually succeeded in undermining her authority. Even though early elections were not held, he was re-elected mayor in 2005.
Bandić is currently serving his sixth term as Mayor of Zagreb. His administration has been defined by scandal and accusations of corruption. Bandić left SDP in 2009 and identified as an independent candidate for six years. In 2014, he was arrested on charges of corruption, bribery and organized crime, along with two other members of the Zagreb City Council. In 2015, he founded his own party, the Bandić Milan 365 – Labor and Solidarity Party. The 365 in his party’s name refers to his claim that he works for the city of Zagreb as mayor every day of the year.
In the 2017 local elections, Bandić narrowly defeated challenger Anka Mrak Taritaš. His current term ends in 2021.
Follow our Politics page to keep up with protests against the Bandić administration. For more information on upcoming protests against the Mayor, check out the Zagreb Te Zove (Zagreb is calling you) page on Facebook.