Couple of hundred citizens gathered in front of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade on May 26. The reasons for their dissatisfaction are the new authorisations given to private enforcement officers and the criminalisation of solidarity. The demand of the protest organised by the United Action Roof over One’s Head (Združena akcija Krov nad glavom) is to protect the right to have a home.
Under the slogan No one without a home, a roof over one’s head now!, the protest started with a moment of silence for Ljubica Stajic. Ljubica committed suicide a few days earlier, after setting a fire in the apartment from which she was supposed to be evicted. The reason for eviction was a fraud committed by the investor who sold her the apartment.
Clean air, water and a roof over one’s head are our resources which are being taken from us every day. We need to urgently ban private enforcement officers.
This was the statement of Julijana Terek, one of the women who were evicted from their homes by private enforcement officers. She spoke about the war against the poor and pointed out that the only right and duty that we have is to pay while we do not receive anything in return.
The activists of the United Action Roof over One’s Head, association Efektiva and United Movement of Free Tenants from Niš spoke at the protest.
“This can happen to anyone!”
Almost all of the speakers warned that, in today’s system and with current laws, almost anyone can be in debt and lose their home. Even if one is not in debt but is “a third party” and becomes a victim of organised frauds.
Marko Crnobanja reminded that the law from 1836 recognised the right to own a home and that today that right is being taken away from citizens. On the other hand, all the rights are given to the private enforcement officers who evict people from their only homes on an everyday basis.
The state does not protect the right of its citizens but solely the rights of those who own capital. The state has to grant the right to home for everyone, concluded Crnobrnja.
The activist of the United Action Roof over One’s Head, Nemanja Pantovic underlined that their goal is not only to block the evictions but also the transformation of the housing in order to satisfy the needs of all. This would mean that there are no empty apartments while some people are being thrown out onto the street.
Jovan Ristic from the association Efektiva listed all the bad aspects that result from the amendments to the law. While the system of monitoring of the enforcement officers remains faulty, the rights of “the third party” in litigation are not improved and executions can happen at any time.
The second speaker form the Efektiva association, Ranko Marinkovic, talked about great solidarity shown by young people.
Whenever I think that our society has reached the bottom, I remember these young people who defend the homes of those they do not even know!
Ivan Zlatic reminded the protesters of the case of Mirjana from Mirijevo who was supposed to be evicted three years ago. After many successfully prevented attempts of the eviction and a long struggle, she has won the case at the court. Zlatic pointed out that, had there not been organised eviction preventions, Mirjana would have been homeless and would have to call the private enforcement officers in order to evict from the apartment some other “third party” tricked into buying it without knowing that there is a legal court case.
The draft of the amendments to the Law on Enforcement and Security will result with new fines for the debtors while the victims of frauds, so-called “third parties”, will be in an even worse position because they will have to cover the costs of their own evictions even though they have not done anything wrong.
The right to have a home is still not secured, which is against the international conventions that the Republic of Serbia has signed. At the same time, such law criminalises solidarity and all those helping people who are being evicted can end up in prison. Nevertheless, the private enforcement officers will receive more authorisations and will have a possibility to give orders to the police officers on duty, while the mechanisms of control of their work will remain almost non-existent or very poor.
“The fines and arrests will not scare us and stop us from defending the most vulnerable ones”
Only a couple of days before the protest, the police has detained the activists of United Action Roof over One’s Head who were preventing a forced eviction of the family Mandic from Novi Sad.
Masa Sojanovic spoke about fines that the activists receive for struggling against the evictions and about frequent detentions that will be made even easier by the aforementioned amendments in order to kill the solidarity and stop organised eviction preventions. She invited more people to join this struggle.
After the speeches, the protesters walked to the government building where they expressed their dissatisfaction with the draft of amendments and demanded that the private enforcement officers are banned. Furthermore, they have invited others to join their solidarity actions and come to help prevent evictions planned for Monday and Wednesday.
Translation from Serbian: Jelena Mandić
This article was originally published in Serbian on May 26, 2019.