The late Gene Sharp, ideological godfather of countless colour revolutions, probably would not be pleased to see his teachings posthumously hijacked by a most unconventional activist. Father Anthony is an the unyielding, pesky Serbian Orthodox cleric who gets high on driving his country’s authorities crazy, but has he heard of Gene Sharp? Or ever read Sharp’s classical color revolution manual, “Self-liberation,” even more suggestively subtitled “A guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression”? Perhaps he and Sharp simply arrived at similar conclusions independently. Be that as it may, internal tensions in Serbia are rising, fuelled by popular suspicion that NATO is strong-arming the vacillating government to renounce Kosovo. Concomitantly, the charismatic monk’s visibility and credibility have also been rising steadily.
Hardly a day goes by that he is not harassed by the police or arrested on some imputation of “disorderly conduct.” He is held in jail until he scrapes together roughly 1000 euros to pay the brutal fine meted out for such “misconduct.” A pattern is emerging. It seems that the authorities typically stage incidents for the principal purpose of keeping Father Anthony off the streets of Belgrade as much as possible.
With a small band of devout supporters, he has been at it since 2016, when local oligarchs in the provincial town of Valjevo, possessed by a sense of impious impunity, decided to inundate the 13th century monastery of Saint Archangel Michael nearby. The medieval shrine stood in the way of their artificial lake project, conceived brazenly so they could enjoy sail boating. That is when Father Anthony’s righteous indignation boiled over, and a modern Savonarola was born. He has been relentlessly haunting the powers that be ever since.
Following that initial protest, the good father’s public rhetoric expanded noticeably beyond theological matters and futile appeals in neo-liberal Serbia for the preservation of religious and cultural monuments. Every Saturday in Belgrade he leads a religious procession, a litany, making the rounds of what he regards as the nodal points of the occupation system that holds Serbia in subjection: the Patriarchal headquarters of the silenced Church, the national television broadcasting facility, and the parliament building, with the Presidential office close by, situated on the other side of the park. At each of these locations, Saturday after Saturday Anthony delivers scorching homilies on a wide range of sensitive topics that are certainly on everyone’s mind but are rarely whispered by his fellow-citizens, and even then by only a few audacious lips. Today in Serbia, that sort of preaching is offensively annoying. Clearly it does not have the effect of winning friends or influencing people, especially not in the dark corridors of power.
The fact that Anthony has no friends in the aforementioned quarters has been particularly evident over the past several weeks. He has been continuously caught in a revolving door, as he is sprung in and out of jail for his impassioned street denunciations of what he sees as betrayal to NATO and its regional vassals of Serbia’s spiritual and cultural heartland, Kosovo. As of this writing, he is still incarcerated on the other side of the revolving door, where he was safely tucked away to prevent him from adding his unique imprint to the “No to capitulation” mass rally in Belgrade in opposition to EU’s harsh ultimatum to Serbia to supinely accept NATO orchestrated secession of Kosovo.
Monk Anthony preaching with building devastated in the 1999 NATO bombing of Belgrade in the background
Over the past week, Father Anthony demonstrated once more his brilliant capacity to mock and annoy, as should be expected from a student of Gene Sharp. On the day of his latest arrest on March 16th, he further unnerved the jittery authorities by nonchalantly taking a provocative, although perfectly legal, stroll in the park between the National Assembly building and the President’s office [at 16:36 minutes]. He knew that the police would frown on his unpredictable presence in that public space, but decided with a handful of supporters to test the effectiveness of his civil rights anyway. Permission for a public gathering, defined by law as nineteen or more persons, was not received and pointedly not solicited. The authorities’ already rattled nerves were tried additionally when his followers separated into small groups of two and three, each clearly under the legal threshold, while disingenuously pretending that they congregated by pure chance and were not even acquainted with each other.
Whether deliberately designed or not, it turned into a classical Gene Sharp performance. The freaked out police, who had orders to disperse them, technically were in a legally untenable position [at 21:31 minutes]. Eventually, exactly as Sharp’s manual predicts they would, they solved the “rule of law” problem by crudely brushing all formalities away. They settled the matter Balkan style, the only method they knew. An officer approached the monk, no court order or any such nonsense in hand of course, and peremptorily ordered Anthony to vacate the public area where he was legally entitled to be. Refusing to budge, Father Anthony preached and argued with the stone faced praetorians and finally he was rewarded with his Gene Sharp (or, if one prefers, Ghandi) moment. As the conversation was getting nowhere, he deliberately collapsed to the ground [at 33:02 minutes] forcing police officers to physically carry him off to a waiting vehicle [at 34:01 to 36:40 minutes]. In plain sight and for the obvious edification of the citizenry, Father Anthony was carted off to an undisclosed location. On best available information, he still remains there, incommunicado.
At last report, for this playful caper he was sentenced to five days in jail; there is no official word whether or not he offered to pay the fine, or the offer was refused.
Regrettably, neither Amnesty International nor the International Criminal Court, which lately purports to have been busy investigating human rights violations, have expressed the slightest interest in Father Anthony, the treatment he habitually receives, or his whereabouts. Nor have inquiries been made by international dignitaries who have been flocking to Belgrade to finalise with their local lackeys the handover of Kosovo to NATO occupiers and their Albanian minions. It seems to suit everybody perfectly that the monk has vanished.
For all we know, Father Anthony may be somewhere sharing a jail cell with incarcerated journalist Dejan Zlatanovic, comforting another forlorn prisoner of conscience in this dark night of the soul for the entire Serbian nation.