Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Shoot the first Serb..."

According to the Belgrade daily "Srpski Nacional," the commander of Zagreb riot police, one Zvonimir Vitjak, threatened the Serb soccer fans planning to attend a match between Belgrade's Crvena Zvezda and a Croatian team.

"We'll shoot the first Serb who tries to make trouble. There will be no mercy for Belgraders, if they so much as think of disturbing the peace here... No matter how many Serbs come, we are ready to meet them," Vitjak is quoted as saying.

He added, "We all remember the Serb who carried the photo of Draža Mihailović on Jelačić Square. I promise I will personally deal with every Serb that gets a similar idea... I don't care that this is a European game. I will do anything to preserve the dignity of all Croats." (all emphasis added)

This racist drivel comes on the heels of last week's celebration of the August 1995 ethnic cleansing of Serbs. It's an illustration of the extent to which Serbs are hated in Croatia. Vitjak wasn't warning Zvezda fans, or hooligans, he was warning Serbs. He wasn't speaking of upholding the law, but of preserving Croatian "dignity."

Earlier this year (March), a riot in Zagreb targeted athletes, journalists and fans from Serbia after a handball game between a home team and Belgrade's Partizan. No arrests were made. Somehow I don't think Mr. Vitjak was too concerned with Croats who were "disturbing the peace" by beating up Serbs. After all, probably considering it a patriotic duty, it's what he would do.

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