A group of Belgraders, led by the head of the central Stari Grad municipality Marko Bastac, encircled the machines working on the reconstruction of the city’s central Republic Square on Thursday to stop what they said was an illegal move by Belgrade authorities, N1 reported.
The citizens put a sign reading ‘Metro’ in an allusion for decades-long plan to build an underground system in the city of almost two million people.
The protest was named “The Defence of Belgrade,” and aimed at stopping all works that, according to the residents and the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS), “impose damage to the city and make citizens' everyday life difficult.”
The crowd repeated a call to the Mayor Zoran Radojicic for dialogue and the request for all the works to stop until a referendum on the city’s reconstruction was held.
Bastac, who heads the only opposition-held municipality in the capital, climbed on an excavator, and the workers withdrew without any incident.
However, Simo Spasic, the head of the Association of Families of Kidnapped and Killed in Kosovo, yelled at protesters, but Bastac told people not to react to his provocations.
Srdjan Skoro, a journalist, described the city authorities as “people who hate this city. They want this place to be the ugliest in the world and to erase our memories of Belgrade.”
The protesters said they would be on the spot the whole day.
In the meantime, the Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic, whose resignation many Belgraders demanded, said he filed criminal charges against Bastac and others for interfering with the works.
Bastac said they had not received any, adding he also filed criminal charges against Vesic.