#ДАНСwithme: Creating Spaces for protest

When I was in Bulgaria, one of the things that I was researching was the lack of a civil society.  Due to the form of socalism present in Bulgaria and many other factors, Bulgarians lacked that sense of “togetherness” or even a willingness to protest.  That all changed in January. In January there were record electricity bills, which we were told were because of “record cold spells” in December (for the record, there was only 1 blizzard, and it wasn’t that cold, I was told by many that it was a mild winter).  Many pensioners elecrticity bills were higher than their pensions.

People protested.  It was scary, as my apartment was located near the protest sites.  I was gone when the protests started, or else I would have gone. The protests got more animated (not violent…but threatened to be so), so I stayed home. Effigies were burned

And then…people started lighting themselves on fire. Like the Tibten monks, 6 Bulgarians doused themselves in gasoline and lit a match against the oppression they were feeling.  One of these was in Varna, near where  I lived. There was a cover up by the local government as to the sign he wore when he lit the match.  And the mafia appointed mayor resigned (I just happened to be walking past the Oblastina when that happened–IT WAS CRAZY!).

The protests contained in various forms.  In the spring, I joined the protests.  We went to various restaurants with Mafia ties and protested outside of them with chants like “MAFIA NO!” As I left Bulgaria, the protests in the capital were heating up, into a summer street party. Where protesters were taking over the streets, with their dogs and kids to just be “spokonio” (chill) in the summer. They rallied through the tag #ДАНСwithme (DANCE with me).  August came, and the protests dwindled.

School started again…and they came back.  Yesterday, in honor of the 24th anniversary of the end of socialism in Bulgaria, thousands took to the streets in honor of the holiday– and asked for an end to the mafia-backed government.

Reflecting on all of this made me think about the importance of creating spaces for protesting within a society, both in the physical but also the intellectual spaces.  The situation in Sofia was aided by the fact that there were many spaces left over from socialism for marches of workers that can now be used for protests.  I think that planners should think and be aware of creating spaces that can be used in multiple ways.  We should create wide boulevards in the central area that can be used to celebrate and protest.  We should also do our part towards encouraging individuals to think and feel and challenge norms.

 

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3 thoughts on “#ДАНСwithme: Creating Spaces for protest

  1. The protests as a temporary intervention in the public space is a great idea! One thing I would like to point out however – the February protests and self-immolations were very different from the protests today. Those were marked by personal desperation and poverty. These ones are not only against corruption. They are an attempt to regain access to the truth and regain a space within the control public discourse and the media. The occupation of the Sofia University and the marches represent exactly that – they attempt to make visible a part of the Bulgarian society, which is silenced and neglected. The occupy movement’s goal is not only for the Cabinet to resign. It has a normative function of redirecting the path towards progress and redirecting the language of progress persistent in our contemporaneity.

    • Banitza,
      Thanks for your post. Not being a Bulgarian, and being in the corn fields of Illinois I am not able to see these protests myself. In Varna (where TIM runs the city) it seemed like the February protests were based on changing the language of the debate and illustrating that Bulgarians do have a voice. While there have been clear changes (the use of social media and the occupation of places like Sofia University), do you think that the movements goals are all that different?

      • I think they are yes and they are definitely evolving.
        In fact, there were very important political interventions that led to the February protests.

        The movement goals today go much deeper than corruption and poverty. They are primarily ideational and moral – the goals are to break up the political dominance and the geo-political influence of Russia; to break the binary between citizens and ex-Secret Service agents and Communist party member elites, who hold a majority of the public appointments; to redirect the path back towards the EU; to break up the media monopoly and regain the continuous silencing of our public voice. February was an act of individual desperation; this marks the consolidation of a new and young and moral Bulgarian social identity and intelligentsia.

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