Protest over weekend lockdown turns violent after tear gas fired

Protest over weekend lockdown turns violent after tear gas fired

Protest over weekend lockdown turns violent after tear gas fired Izvor: N1

The police fired teargas to disperse the large crowd that gathered in front of the Serbian parliament on Tuesday evening, protesting the weekend curfew that President Aleksandar Vucic announced a few hours earlier.

Several small groups of protesters clashed with police in riot gear who repeatedly fired tear gas but failed to chase the crowd away. Gendarmerie armored vehicles were seen arriving minutes after the first tear gas was fired. N1 covered the protest live unlike the state TV (RTS) and other pro-government stations.

The crowd of several hundred people tore down the metal barrier fence, lighting torches on the steps leading up to the entrance before a group managed to break into the building. Reporters at the site of the protest said that the police intervened and managed to push them out after about 15 minutes.  

Groups of protesters withdrew into the park in front of the Serbian Presidency building across the street from parliament, resisting attempts to push them back. Live footage showed the police beating several people. MOunted police and officers in riot gear with dogs were also deployed to disperse the crowd.

The crowd shouted insults against the Serbian president and blew whistles, a tradition at protests in Serbia since the 1990s. Some in the crowd said they came to Belgrade from Novi Sad, Zrenjanin and other places.  

An N1 reporter was told by people in the crowd that they were provoked by the president’s announcement of more restrictive measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic. They said that they didn’t mind the curfew as much as the fact that the authorities lied to them and allowed the elections to go ahead as well as football matches with fans in the stadiums, parties and celebrations.

The RTS aired a special news bulletin just before midnight, blaming the protest on the political opposition. The bulletin included an interview with the country's top policeman, Director of Police Vladimir Rebic who said that several police officers were attacked and injured.

Protesters overturned garbage containers, blocking the streets leading to the square in front of parliament and set fire to three police vehicles.

Initial condemnation of the protests came from Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and its junior coalition partner United Serbia (JS( and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic who is a member of Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

The police managed to take control of the streets around parliament after 2:00 pm on Wednesday.

Similar protests on a much smaller scale were staged in Novi Sad and Kragujevac with fresh protests scheduled for Wednesday.

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