“A brilliant spark that will fly through the air and set the vapors of our insurrectionary imaginations alight.”John Jordan, founder of Reclaim the Streets
Otpor — “resistance” in Serbian — was a civic youth movement started by a small group of student activists at Belgrade University that was active from 1998 until 2003. Otpor played a key role in overthrowing Slobodan Miloševic’s government and in Serbia’s transition to democracy. In just two years of struggle against Miloševic, Otpor’s numbers grew from eleven to 60,000. Otpor used street theater, dilemma actions, poster propagation and pranks to satirize, embarrass and undermine the legitimacy of the government. For example, activists in Nis held a “birthday party” for Miloševic with prank gifts like a one-way ticket to the Hague, a prison uniform and a cake in the shape of a red star. Even the group’s iconic clenched fist logo lampooned the WWII Serb Partisans’ symbol. Although the group was provocative, they maintained a staunch and disciplined commitment to nonviolence which ultimately dissuaded security forces from attacking them, regardless of orders. Since Miloševic’s ouster in 2000, the group has disseminated the lessons and tactics of their movement through trainings and consultations. Most recently, Egypt’s April 6 Movement received training from Otpor on how to conduct peaceful demonstrations, how to respond to the threat of state violence and how to mobilize people.