Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own (Ne da(vi)mo Beograd) is a local political movement that is gathering large numbers of people interested in improving the living and working conditions of all our citizens; improving, conserving, and lawfully using common and natural resources, building democratic institutions, sustainable urban development, urban and cultural policies and incorporating citizens into the development of their environment. The movement grew out of a series of mass protests against the theft of the Sava Amphitheater and the phantom demolition of buildings on Hercegovacka Street for the purposes of the Belgrade Waterfront project.
Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own starts from the position that citizens’ life issues are key political issues in our society. Do we have a job and if we have one, are we adequately paid for it? When we get sick, is there anyone to treat us? Can we be educated? Is there room for every child in the kindergartens? How long do we wait for the bus and can we get to work in a reasonable amount of time? Are our cultural, historical and natural monuments for the profit of the privileged elite or for all our citizens to enjoy? As well as whether our laws apply equally to all citizens regardless of religious, national, political, economic or sexual affiliation?
In the past four years, the Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own initiative has fought for the public interest of citizens with all available means: protests, actions, prevention of evictions, analysis of strategies, contracts or new laws and regulations, lawsuits and denunciations, conversations in local communities and on the streets, criminal and misdemeanor charges, concerts, exhibitions … Since its inception, the Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own initiative has been under constant pressure from the authoritarian regime, our activists have been monitored, phones tapped, and work obstructed by a large number of court processes.
In March 2018, we decided to open a new front and we ran for the Belgrade City Assembly elections. With the enormous energy that a large number of people invested during the campaign to bring our fight from the streets to the city parliament, we ended the election race for individual political actors in fifth place, winning 3.44% or 28,500 votes. Although this was not enough for us to participate in the work of the city parliament, the great confidence shown by citizens is the foundation for continuing the fight in this field as well.
Nationally, the initiative is part of the Civic Front along with 7 other authentic local movements. This association brings together in the Front similar local movements animated by the ideas of solidarity, equality, social security and tolerance for the removal of authoritarian rule, the democratization of society, the fight against poverty, and the preservation of public and natural assets.
Internationally, the Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own initiative is part of a growing wave of local municipalist movements. The Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own election list was supported by many European movements and over 80 progressive intellectuals across Europe, including Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, Berlin Deputy Mayor Ramona Pop, Yanis Varoufakis of the Diem25 movement, and Ska Keller of the European Greens / European Free political group alliance in the European Parliament. As a result of its international reputation and support, in June 2019, a major international conference, Fearless Cities, was held in Belgrade, bringing together representatives of over 60 local municipal movements from cities across Europe.
In the immediate future the Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own initiative will develop its internal functioning in order to, as best it can, demonstrate by its example the standards of democratic and transparent action it demands of both the state administration and state institutions. Also, the structure of the movement is expanding with the formation of municipal committees that will bring policy closer to citizens and involve them more directly in the work of the initiative and in making decisions about the environment in which they live.
Change comes from below and the battle for OUR CITY continues.