How a friend of mine and I indirectly triggered the anti-covid movement in Croatia.
In early March 2020, I noticed that lockdowns were spreading beyond China, Italy and a few other countries, and I became concerned that a bigger agenda was underway. In Croatia they had already closed schools, but they said there will be no need for a statewide closing – that we just needed to wait two more weeks.
I knew about the globalist and capitalist practice of faking pandemics, like in the case of swine flu, so I went to research numbers and made a poster with basic statistics that showed there was no need for such a panicked and drastic reaction. At that time I didn’t know anyone sharing my interest in the topic, so I convinced my roommate to help me with postering the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, with informational posters.
It was the day before lockdown was announced and already no one was in the streets, except for police cars and weird individuals slinking around. We went masked up and a bit paranoid from this new and unreal atmosphere. Later when I was checking to see if some of the posters had survived, I saw that just the part with flu statistics had been systematically scratched out – that was a sign to me that something really was going on. These days, when I want to find the data about flu mortality which I was using for this poster, I simply can’t find it anymore on Google. It disappeared, and the numbers appearing in the published results are different.
The day after this first action, the government announced a quarantine, a late spring snow fell, and the biggest earthquake in a long time hit Zagreb. Many houses were destroyed, and of course people went out into the streets during the event. Meanwhile the police were telling them to go back into their houses.
At this time it was already pretty clear to me that I couldn’t count on the support of so-called leftists or anarchists. The lockdown kept me in my small hometown and I was wandering around and tearing down fences put on children’s playgrounds to prevent them from playing. After an online discussion, I was kicked out from my antifa martial arts collective, with an explanation that I’m a potential killer of their old mothers and a right wing extremist.
Later I was kicked out from another leftist group, as well as an Anarchism subreddit, for the same reason. Covid sceptics were beginning to connect with each other via social media. In the first few days I was meeting people telling me about Atlantis, underworlds from Nazi mythology, lasers and crystals. Finally I met a woman determined to take some action so we did some postering walks together.
Spontaneous protests and media making
A few dozens of people were gathering in spontaneous protests every weekend, with different attitudes, from right to left, apolitical and new age, and most unwilling to be put in a political box. During one of the protests, my former antifa collective did a counter-protest spreading pro-vaccine flyers, and a local squat artist group was making a performance to mock us. Some of us gathered and started to hold regular meetings.
At this point I was organising protests as a means of connecting people who are realising what is happening. After we held some meetings, we printed many flyers and did a political graffiti action. It seems that people remain uninformed, so we decided to focus all of our energy on spreading information. The state engaged in political repression, with mainstream media saying that people were arrested for calling for protests online, and charged for endangering the lives of others. I doubt any of this passed in the courts, and I think it was just a media trick.
I was talking with anarchist comrades in Serbia and Slovenia; they were also isolated in their anarchist or leftist groups, and some of them were afraid of coming out with their doubts of the reality of Covid danger. In the early days of the lockdowns, police broke an eardrum of a Serbian activist, and in Slovenia there were reports of police entering people’s flats without permission – things were a bit scarier than in my country.
After postering, we decided to make banners and hang them in public spaces. The first one simply said “Corona is a fraud.” As all bars were closed, many students and other people were gathering in front of the national theater for an outdoor party so we decided to put the banner there. A member of the group went to hang it, and by accident was there right when a theater piece was ending. Journalists from national television went out and took a chance to interview him. They also confessed to him that they were covering a story about a man who came back from hiking in Austria, brought Covid with him and started a second wave in Croatia – and that the man was paid for the role, so the whole story was made up for public television.
The day after, the media reported that there was a covid sceptic banner and a gathering by the theatre – they thought students in a party were part of a protest and that helped us. We made another banner supporting Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, who was ostracised in regional media because of his covid-sceptic talk. We received support from many regional news websites, and we viewed that as a sign of regional solidarity. We also held regular actions where we stood with banners on squares and talked with passerbys. Many people approached us, including retired doctors terrified by the Covid-fraud, Italian tourists claiming that there was no real pandemic in Italy, and even a worker in the European parliament who said that none of the politicians there are taking measures or fearing Covid.
A lack of political clarity and unity
Our informal collective was very mixed and unsure of political strategies and directions to take. I was trying to promote an anarchist perspective of mistrust in any party. To some people it was realistic to believe, and still is, that some alternative party could win the seats and stop the Covid tyranny, so they went in this direction. The group was also resistant to transform into a more structured and secure organisation.
One of the members found contacts of some famous local Covid-sceptic scientists and promoters, so they were invited to the meeting to form a wider initiative. We had a big chaotic meeting with two tendencies – one in favor of organising an institutional fight and legal protests, and other in favour of promoting civil disobedience techniques. I fell into the second group. There was also a lady saying that she was raped as a child and her husband was kidnapped by aliens, and another one taking photos secretly – so I decided it was time to distance myself a bit. After the meeting, the institutional part of the group separated themselves silently and formed what is today an initiative for rights and freedoms. They went ahead with organising protests, petitions and court papers.
They succeeded in organizing one of the bigger protests in Croatia’s recent history. They continued and organised some more big protests – but the situation was not changing, as I expected. However, their actions helped people to connect and initiative Parents 0-24 was born, defending their children against mask wearing in schools. Besides some legal action, in one moment many parents were coming into schools so some schools had to lock their doors during classes. Soon after, mask wearing in schools was lifted and I think it was a consequence of that.
Also, people from protests started to connect locally and make shopping actions and tram rides without masks. It didn’t draw much attention because guards were simply not reacting when they saw a group of twenty. However, we proved the point that in collective action it is possible to avoid Covid measures.
Finally, I connected with enough like minded people supporting non-institutional action, to form a collective called Freedom of Choice. We started flyering two times a week and made videos of it. Some people in other cities were inspired and started to do the same – including the Initiative for Rights and Freedoms, so at some point we were really spreading tons of flyers throughout the country.
To my surprise, young people in the streets were really not interested, although we met many elders who were doubting the official narrative and were interested to find out more. Some of them even took off their masks. A man joined us with the idea of Zoo resistance, which was about wearing animal masks for children in official places instead of medical masks – so we had a fun time with guards totally confused by this act. He was also giving away animal masks, but people were shy and wanted to do some more “serious” activism.
After some weeks of organising and more meetings than concrete actions, I felt that there was no general will to move to bigger things and spend more energy, so I decided to escape Croatia until the situation changes. Just before my leaving another ban of movement between districts was declared, but some days later, a second and stronger earthquake happened and destroyed a few cities and villages. People started to move in all directions and disobeyed the police orders, so the ban on movement was lifted – the earthquake saved us from another lockdown.
Also, it proved again the total incapability of the state. On the contrary, people showed a great capacity for voluntary action and I overheard many people saying that we don’t need politicians, that people can do everything by themselves. For a moment, people felt what it was like to replace the state with self-organisation.
Among all the Covid-horror of Europe, the west Balkans is still one of the most free zones, even globally. The exception is Slovenia with one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, but it has also seen some bigger mobilisations in recent times. In Bosnia the highest court declared all measures unconstitutional so they lifted them all. People from neighbouring countries were going there just to party or sky in newly opened up winter tourism. Regional media were reporting on the Bosnian “miracle” – how they lifted up measures, and Covid cases were dropping – who would know why! If I remember well, Serbians were the first people in the world to win the curfew with their own power.
After three days of intense protests in the whole country, the President decided to send the army onto the streets. In a town in the south of the country, the army refused repression, so to prevent bigger chaos, they gave up on the curfew. Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia were most of the time pretty easy to enter and relaxed.
Despite the general passivity and fact that Croatia is maybe the only country in Europe where there was no violent protest in the last 10 years, there are signs of a slight radicalisation of society. More cases of individual, isolated violence against institutions are happening than before, but also random aggression and suicides. In the first days of lockdown, a man set him on fire in a gasoline station; in another small city, two Roma people were denied entrance in the bar for not wearing a mask – later they returned with twenty others and demolished the bar.
When Covid inspectors started to go around and check measures in bars, they were beaten up in some neighbourhoods. In autumn, the first attempt of political assasination in a long time happened. A young man arrived in front of parliament, shot a policeman watching the door and shot randomly at walls and windows. Supposedly, he killed himself an hour later in a wood with six bullets (sic) and police discovered he was a right wing extremist with a goal to assassinate the Prime Minister.
The day before his death he wrote that he had “enough of frauds” – who knows of which frauds he was thinking about! As I am writing this, a man was harassed in a shop for not having a mask, and he returned with a hand grenade; on the coast there was another sabotage of communication infrastructure. In the light of the fact that Croatia is one of the first countries of Europe which will implement Covid-passports, but also one of the most vaccine-sceptical, it will be interesting to follow the further development of situation.
Collective contact – firstname.lastname@example.org