Three decades ago, Belgrade rose against the then regime

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Source: Foto: Demokratska stranka

On March 9, 1991, some 100,000 demonstrators gathered in Belgrade's central Republic Square under "Rally against Five-pointed Star" against the then Serbia's strongman Slobodan Milosevic's rule and the pro-regime state RTS TV.

The star was a symbol of communism that officially ended a year ago when a multi-party system replaced it in Serbia, the former Yugoslavia’s last republic to do that.

Milosevic renamed former communists into Serbia’s Socialist Party (SPS) and overwhelmingly won the December 1991 general elections in Serbia.

The then RTS TV was dubbed ‘TV Bastilla’ for its pro-regime editorial policy and brutal attack on the opposition. The ouster of its management was the key demand by the demonstrators.

The banned demonstration’s main organiser was the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) led by Vuk Draskovic, who was the regime’s and RTS TV prime target.

Some 15,000-strong police force took to Belgrade’s centre using tear-gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and cavalry to disperse the rally.

The work of the then independent media, Studio B and B 92, were banned.

Several hours of clashes claimed two lives. A student and a police officer were killed in separate incidents, while over 200 people arrested, including Draskovic. Many were injured, including some journalists.

The protest ended late afternoon after Milosevic ordered the army to intervene and the tanks rolled onto the streets.

A day later, students gathered in the city centre, starting the so-called velvet revolution.

After several days of 24-hour peaceful demonstrations, the RTS TV management was replaced, the then Interior Minister resigned and Draskovic, was released from detention.

His SPO, which turned from Serbian nationalists to pro-Europeans, is now a part of the ruling coalition of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), led by Aleksandar Vucic, the head of state.

Only three months ago, the war broke out in the former Yugoslav Federation, following Slovenia’s and Croatia’s declaration of independence.