Police in riot gear beat and arrested a small group of protesters on the steps to the Serbian parliament after the fifth anti-regime protest in Belgrade seemed to have ended peacefully.
The KRIK investigative portal tweeted a video showing a group of no more than two dozen young men and women standing on the steps whistling and chanting when police in riot gear burst out of the parliament building chasing and beating anyone they caught up with while plain clothes officers rushed in to bring several people to the ground.
Izašla Žandarmerija i uhapsila neke od demonstranata.pic.twitter.com/8mKvaYlBHy— KRIK (@KRIKrs)July 11, 2020
Much smaller groups of protesters gathered in Belgrade at the start of the fifth anti-government protests in a row on Saturday, but the crowd gradually grew to several thousand and the gathering ended peacefully, the media reported.
In the northern city of Novi Sad, up to five hundred people gathered, briefly blocked a main city's bridge. Then went to the ‘Stari Grad’ police station, demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Police Director Vladimir Rebic and President Aleksandar Vucic’s.
The protesters announced they would go to Belgrade on Sunday.
The protests were also held in the southern city of Nis, where demonstrators left the national flag and flowers in front of the police cordon.
People also gathered in the central town of Cacak and in Zrenjanin in the north in a protest on Saturday. No incident was reported.
However, on July 7 and 8, Belgarde, the riot police and Gendarmerie brutally beat dozens of demonstrators.
On Thursday, the sit-in protest went on mostly peacefully, while on Friday, groups of said to be hooligans provoked the police outside the Parliament building in the capital for hours before they reacted and dispersed those most aggressive, but without evidence of excessive use of force as before.
During the blockage of the police station in Novi Sad on Friday, people left dog food bowls and yelled ‘Dogs, dogs,’ a usual street nickname for police officers. Some people left money, as Belgraders did on Friday night.
After 15 minutes, a riot police unit appeared outside the station, and the crowd yelled ‘Regime servants,’ ‘We are paying you,’ ‘Put the shields down…’
An N1 reporter on the scene said that a majority of demonstrators wore face masks as recommended by the Government and the anti-epidemic Crisis Team.
Earlier on Saturday, Rebic told reporters that 130 police officers sought medical care during the demonstrations this week, and 71 people were arrested. He reiterated Vucic’s claim that some foreigners – from Montenegro, Bosnia, UK and Tunisia took part in riots.
The Independent Union of Serbia's Journalists (NUNS) registered over 20 attacks on jurnalists reporting from the prostets in Belgrade.
In Belgrade, the protest of several hundred people started peacefully. It was not clear what way it might go, since every night the groups of ultra-nationalists, soccers hooligans, mostly young men with masks and hoods, provoked serious incidents. The only time they did not manage to do that was on Thursday when people set down and protested peacefully.
An incident was recorded when three men took a mobile phone from Vuk Cvijic, a journalist with the NIN weekly, told him not to take photos of them, erased those he had made and gave him the phone back.
Analysts and demonstrators who talked to reporters agreed the most aggressive hooligans were well organised, with some saying they were sent by the regime, and others that a part of ultra-nationalist opposition was behind it.
The nationalists insulted Vucic for 'betraying Serbia' by "giving up Kosovo,' during his perhaps decisive talks about Kosovo in Paris and Brussels after the Belgarde - Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations which started in 2011, was interrupted in November 2018, and were expected to resume on Sunday.
The state and government officials blame the opposition for instigating the demonstrations "to take power by force."
Some opposition leaders could be seen in the street but told reporters they had nothing to do with the organisation of the protest organisers and that they only joined people.
So far, no one has claimed to be an organiser of the fife-bight-long demonstrators.
The trigger was Vucic's announcement of a new curfew last Tuesday for this weekend. Thousands of people gathered that night saying they had enough lies about the situation with the epidemic.
The curfew had not been introduced, and it soon became clear that the crowds were made of people with different, sometimes opposite, reasons for protests.