“I am proud of Serbia for enduring this,” Vucic said on Friday from Paris, where he was meeting with French and German leaders to discuss negotiations with the breakaway province of Kosovo. He denounced the violence and chaos as “pure terrorism.”
A mass of protesters, mostly young men and women, gathered outside the Serbian parliament again on Friday, chanting slogans against Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the entire Progessive Party government.
Among their grievances were the announced new lockdowns to halt the spread of Covid-19 and the alleged plot to recognize Kosovo, as Western powers have demanded for over a decade.
Anti-government protests continued on Friday in Belgrade, where thousands rallied against Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and government policies, including its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protest occurred one day after Serbian authorities banned gatherings of more than 10 people in the capital following two nights of violent clashes between police and protesters opposing COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Police in full riot gear and mounted units were deployed outside the parliament building to prevent Vucic’s opponents from storming it. Pelting police officers with rocks and signal flares, protesters chanted “we will not give up Kosovo” and “Vucic thief.”
— nova.rs (@novarsonline) July 10, 2020
Brnabic called the protests “irresponsible behavior” and said that “Serbia has recorded 386 new cases and 18 deaths on Friday.”
Demonstrators — who were defying a ban on mass gatherings — threw bottles, rocks and flares at the police guarding the domed parliament building in central Belgrade and removed the metal fences in front of it. Smoke rose above the entry stairway.
Police first used their shields to push back the protesters and prevent them from entering the building. But after repeated attacks, they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, and then ended up in running battles with demonstrators.
After a long standoff, a phalanx of police fired teargas and moved to disperse the protesters.
— KRIK (@KRIKrs) July 10, 2020
Demonstrators fled down King Alexander Boulevard towards St. Mark’s church, and some were arrested along the way.
As they gathered outside the church and chanted “Serbia!” the police fired teargas again.
Kod Crkve Sv. Marka demonstranti i dalje u sukobu sa policijom. pic.twitter.com/FlpDjeuHRU
— KRIK (@KRIKrs) July 10, 2020
Gendarmerie in specially modified Hummvees joined the fully armored riot police. There was no sign of mounted officers that had been used earlier in the week to run down the demonstrators.
Neko je u stampedu ili prebijanju ostao bez patike pic.twitter.com/fJPxkIgDTj
— Maja Vukas (@M2aja) July 10, 2020
Clashes first broke out on Tuesday, after Vucic departed for France and a day after the government announced it would reimpose a draconian Covid-19 lockdown – a measure later abandoned due to the public backlash.
Thursday saw a change of tone as sympathizers of pro-Western NGOs staged sit-ins and shouted down anyone carrying a Serbian flag or chanting nationalist slogans. Nationalists have repeatedly rebuffed attempts by politicians and NGO activists to take over the protests, on multiple occasions chasing off opposition officials who tried to infiltrate.
Vucic has speculated about “all kinds of influence from foreign security services” behind the protests. On Friday, he told reporters about an incident with an “extreme right and extreme left” activists attacking each other with knives, before asking the police for help.
Source: RT and AGENCIES