Facebook warriors

Since February, peaceful civic protests have been organized in Montenegro, primarily as a reaction to the scandal caused by the activities of businessman Dusko Knezevic, who has been accused of tax evasion and money laundering by the Montenegrin authorities. Knezevic accused some of the highest-ranking Montenegrin officials of complicity in the series of posts on social media and his appearances in the media.

The spontaneous action of citizens was also partly caused by the inactivity of the Montenegrin opposition. Even though the opposition parties have in principle supported the protest, some of them have been trying to take control of the entire process from the beginning. When they realized that the protest organizing committee of 26 people is immune to their attempts, they went into a concealed and open obstruction.

The Democrats have made their own version of the protest by gathering in the Montenegrin cities on the day of every protest in Podgorica, and URA made their own choreography when entering the protests with the lit torches trying to take credit for political gains.

However, the protests are going smoothly and without incidents, with demands for government to step down, for the fair elections and a more decisive fight against corruption, but with the emphasis that Montenegro’s foreign policy priorities should not be questioned. The latter was enough to alarm of the opposition, especially those who were are attached to Russia and the Russian politics.

That is why the alt-right facebook page Stari Liberal, which is according to many sources administrated by Roberto Golovic, a former Lieutenant of the Montenegrin Army and the Annapolis Naval Academy trainee, tries to undermine protests from the beginning by emphasizing examples of violence from neighboring Albania protests and the yellow vests protests in Paris.

At the same time Marko Milacic, the leader of the Prava Crna Gora, a pro-Russian party, a man whose highlighted photo on facebook is his selfie with Putin, goes to Paris and live streams broken windows and states that this is an example for protests in Montenegro.

Igor Damjanovic, an associate of the Russian Ruska rijec portal, is in the forefront of protests mentioning on his Facebook account, and recently joined by the deputies Nebojsa Medojevic and Slaven Radunovic as well as a large number of activists of the Democratic Front who have already openly pressured the protest organizers, by insulting and bullying them on social networks.

Damjanovic is known as a supporter of the regime in Venezuela, Lebanese Hezbollah, and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. What is indicative for the political processes is that those radicalized activists are being accepted even by the moderate URA as people with a bit conservative attitudes but more important is that they are against the DPS.

Budimir Minic, Montenegrin lawyer and one of the organizers of the protest, was insulted and bullied by the Democratic Front and anti-NATO Freedom to the People activist, Bojan Bulatovic, for his stand on non-violent protests.

What unfortunately happens is that the number of the Democratic Front activists present at the protest is  increased and that affects the changes in the attitudes of moderate opposition party members from URA, the Democrats, and SDP. Although there is likely an honest intention of a large number of demonstrators to change Montenegro’s politics for better, a smaller part of the demonstrators have far more extreme and radical views. The problem is that the latter are more vocal and aggressive, and they are making pressure to cause problems and violence that would only hurt the aims of the protest.

Recently, after criticizing DF for calling for violence, opposition activist Petar Glendza, a history professor from Cetinje has been the target of the synchronized campaign of the Borba web portal close to DF, the Facebook page Stari Liberal, as well as the activists of the Front, like Zoran Pestoric.

One of the narratives of activists and supporters of the Front spreads ethnic and religious hatred. Thus, organizers of protests that are not Orthodox Christians are ridiculed because of their Bosniak or Albanian names.

Strado Turovic, Medojevic’s party activist, Spasoje Tomić, the activist of the Front, and lieutenant Roberto Golovic, who allegedly stands behind the Stari Liberal,  are at the forefront of the attacks of this type.

Most of those activists regularly communicate with internet warriors from Serbia like the Nemanja Ristić, accused of participating in 2016 coup attempt, the ultra-right Zavetnici movement, but also they regularly participate in the seminars and activities organized by the right-wing movements in Europe and by the Government of the Russian Federation.

I. Damjanovic (second on the left) with Milica Djurdjevic, leader of the Zavetnici movement, while visiting the Russian Federation Council

It remains to be seen whether the protest organizers will remain independent and true to their goals, or will they surrender to the strong pressure of those who see the alternative to our politics in societies where for their protest activities they would be incarcerated in some of the penalty colonies in Siberia.