The victors unleashed a barrage of bricks, boulders, manure and spit. The losers sat frozen in their cars, blood and sweat streaming down their faces, hoping to get out of Croatia alive.
When convoys of Serb refugees began crawling down School Street, a milelong lane on Sisak's southern outskirts, several hundred Croats saw a chance to taste revenge - and Croat authorities did little to stop them."Monkeys!" "Murderers!" "Go back to Serbia!" were some of the cries as the first convoy of 180 cars and trucks arrived Wednesday afternoon. Police and soldiers had already safely shepherded the Serbs through other Croat areas, but here the rocks and abuse flew.
When the second convoy arrived two hours later, a youth rushed in front of one car and hurled a brick through the windshield, splitting open the driver's forehead and sending the car careening out of control.
Another rock smashed his side window, hitting the woman beside him in the shoulder. The woman, choking back tears, plucked splinters of glass from the blanket wrapped around a baby in her lap.
About 50 police and soldiers stood in pockets along the road. A few lectured stone-throwers, to no discernible effect. Most of the security forces smoked nonchalantly and shrugged off the violence as inevitable. Some laughed at what they considered overdue enter-tain-ment.
By the time the third convoy arrived at 6 p.m., many locals carried shopping bags full of rocks, laughing and chatting with contentment that after four years of Serb aggression they were exacting retribution. Few cars escaped without shattered windows.
"We just want to see their faces," said Sdepan Panezic, 36, holding a Croatian flag.
He said the wounding of passing refugees was justified but added: "We do want the army here to protect them. We don't want to be killers."
"Have you been to Petrinja? Have you been to Vukovar?" asked 66-year-old Ivica Milekovic, referring to two predominantly Croat towns destroyed by invading Serbs in 1991. "What we are doing to them is nothing compared to what they have done to us."
Petrinja was her hometown. Her husband was killed when Petrinja fell; her niece, she said, was shot down while fleeing the town.
"These people passing by supported this killing. Some did this killing," she said with fury.
Some people, from young boys to elderly women, lobbed rocks into the already broken windows of passing cars as though feeding pigeons; others fired the stones like fastballs. A cry of pain from a Serb woman sparked impromptu cheers from the crowd.
The third convoy ground to a halt when a truck couldn't get under a railway bridge at the east end of the lane. Attackers surged onto the road, pulling license plates from cars, jumping onto the backs of trucks and spitting at the elderly refugees cowering inside. Several trucks were looted.
Fighting-age men sat covering their faces on the back of a semitrailer truck.
Police intervened when one man was pulled from his car and repeatedly kicked in the face, stomach and groin. The officers pulled him away and tossed him onto a truck already crammed with refugees. A local man commandeered the car and drove it onto a side road, getting a handshake from a Croat soldier as he did so.
Another man stood in the middle of the road, heaving a foot-wide rock at a vehicle, retrieving it and throwing it at the next vehicle, over and over.
He halted only when a car containing an Orthodox nun passed by. Others jeered him and peppered the car with smaller rocks.
All the while, other Croats watched silently from houses, their faces set in unmistakable sadness.
During lulls between convoys the owners of the Bistro El Piaf midway along the road turned up the pop music and sold cold beer on the terrace.
The United Nations deployed about 20 civilian police at the end of School Street, but a senior officer said they had a mandate only to document the actions, not to stop them.
As darkness approached, two truckloads of Croatian troops arrived, apparently a response to U.N. protests of the attacks. There were some 25,000 refugees who had yet to run the School Street gantlet.