Thousands gather for fourth anti-government protest in Belgrade

NEWS 29.12.2018 20:38
Source: REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Tens of thousands of Serbians marched through the central streets of Belgrade in the fourth 1 in 5 Million protest which started as a protest against violence following the beating of an opposition leader.

An N1 reporter said that this Saturday’s gathering is the largest yet. Some estimates placed the crowd at 50,000 people.  

Organizers made demanded the dismissal of Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic who appeared before cameras several times claiming that the number of people protesting was much less than it actually was. Earlier demands include finding the killers of Kosovo Serb opposition leader Oliver Ivanovic, the attackers on journalists and opposition leaders and activists, a five minutes of air time for the opposition on the Serbian state TV (RTS).  

The RTS reported on the protest in the 13th minute of its 30 minute main evening news, saying that the protest was being held with some demands and pictures of the gathering but no live shots.   Protesters carried banners reading There Are Five Million Of Us, Enough Lies Pensioners are Hungry, I’m Marching I Don’t Want to Leave and other slogans.

The protest started at the usual place on the plateau in front of the Belgrade University School of Philosophe where actor Branislav Trifunovic, who has spoken at all the earlier protests, said that “if anyone asks who organized the protest, we should say (Serbian President) Aleksandar Vucic”. If it weren’t for him there would be no protest,” he said.

Trifunovic said the protests in Belgrade also support the protests by the Dragicevic family in Banja Luka under the slogan Justice for David. The speakers included journalist Srdjan Skoro who wished the crowed a Happy New Year without Vucic. “Vucic promised to hear the people, the people called him to come here but I don’t see him. He is not where decent people and a polite Serbia are,” Skoro said and called Vucic “a coward”.

Also addressing the crowd was local community chief Desimir Stojanov who has been fighting against investors who want to reroute a river in his village of Rakita to build a power plant.

The crowd marched through central streets to the RTS building where they stopped for a short while and then later to the building housing the pro-government private Studio B TV station where President Vucic was scheduled to appear after the protest. Trifunovic called the crowd to shout a greeting to President Vucic outside the Studio B building and crowd responded shouting Vucic Thief and Vucic Count Us.

The single possible incident was prevented by the police who stopped a group of about 100 people carrying banners reading We Wont’ Give Up Kosovo and trying to break up the protest column.

Following the initial protest which was launched under the slogan Stop to Bloody Shirts after an assault on opposition leader Borko Stefanovic, Vuci said he would not back down to pressure from the streets even if five million people protested, prompting protesters to come up with the slogan 1 in 5 Million (#1u5miliona).

Speaking after the third protest last week, Vucic said he is prepared to hear what dissatisfied citizens have to say.