Looting or rebellion? Log on and decide

February 24, 2008 6:25:28 PM PST
Can looting be patriotic? Two women who took part in the Belgrade riots to protest Kosovo's independence seem to think the two go hand in hand. A video clip now on the Internet ? entitled "Kosovo for Sneakers" ? shows two girls going from shop to shop with armfuls of looted items.

Goods drip from their overburdened arms. They drop a sweater, but pick up a box of chocolates ? and on and on.

The mobile phone footage posted Friday on the videosharing Web site YouTube became an instant hit, triggering dozens of comments on local blogs and forums. The girls, surprised at sudden fame, contacted a local television to tell their side of the story.

"We came to Belgrade to defend Kosovo," one of the girls, her face blurred to protect identity and identified only as Maja, told B92 television. "We started looting when they all did."

The rioting in Belgrade broke out at the end of the gathering, which drew about 150,000 people. Groups of hooligans first targeted U.S. and other Western embassies, in an outburst of nationalist anger of the countries' recognition of Kosovo's self-proclaimed statehood.

Rioters set the U.S. Embassy on fire and smashed several other Western missions before police chased them away. But they moved on, destroying and looting shops in the capital city's shopping area.

The video shows the two going from shop to shop.

"We looted because we are poor, not because we are rich," Maja said.

Serbia's state prosecutor pledged Saturday to hunt down the hooligans and looters. The YouTube stars said, "we will bear the consequences if we have to."

"It was too much to issue a warrant for our arrest ? as if we killed someone," Jovana told B92. "This state is in chaos."