Protesters gathered in front of the Parliament building before filing by the government’s headquarters and onto a highway bridge spanning the Sava River, where evening commuters had to turn their vehicles around to avoid getting stuck. At the head of the column was a black banner reading “Serbia Against Violence,” Reuters reported.
As the demonstrators passed the government buildings, many chanted slogans decrying Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic whom they blame for creating an atmosphere of hopelessness and division in the country that they say indirectly led to the mass shootings.
Pro-government media criticized the bridge blockade, with the Novosti daily newspaper reporting that “harassment has begun, hooligans have blocked the bridge.”
But opposition politician Srdjan Milivojevic told television station N1 that “this is a battle for survival.” He said, “If the president does not understand his people, it’s time he resigned.”
Police did not intervene. As night fell and the crowd started to disperse, organizers promised to hold more protests unless their demands are met.
Ahead of the protest, Vucic, who holds nearly all the levers of power, said it amounted to “violence in politics” and the “harassment” of citizens. But he said police wouldn’t get involved “unless people’s lives are in danger.”
“What gives them the right to block other people’s normal lives?” said Vucic, who accused opposition leaders of “abusing the tragedy” following the shootings that deeply rattled the nation and triggered calls for change.
“They are harassing citizens and not allowing them to travel,” Vucic insisted. “But we don’t like to beat protesters, like France and Germany do.”
The rally came nearly a week after an earlier protest in Belgrade that also drew thousands and demonstrations in smaller towns and cities around the country. At that protest, demonstrators demanded the resignations of government ministers and the withdrawal of broadcast licenses for two private TV stations which are close to the state and promote violence. They often host convicted war criminals and crime figures on their programs.