The protest is peaceful for hours. Thousands of Serbs stand and sit in front of the parliament in Belgrade on Friday evening. But then it gets dark – and within minutes Belgrade’s city center turns into a battle zone. Protesters throw stones, bottles and firecrackers, the police use tear gas and clubs.
The same picture has appeared in Serbias capital since Tuesday: With the night, the protest against … – well, what actually? Corona, the Balkan conflict, anger at the government: a whole potpourri of topics drives the Serbs onto the streets.
“The protests are extremely charged ideologically and attract people from a wide variety of political camps,” reports Serbian “Blic” journalist Andriana Rankovic (28).
The demonstrators have no uniform demand
The problem of the demonstrators: there are no uniform demands, no speakers. Kosovo shouts and chants, icons and religious symbols are increasing, according to observers. Nationalists accuse President Aleksandar Vucic (50) of treason for agreeing to new talks with Kosovo after Franco-German mediation. The trigger for the wave of protests was actually Vucic’s catastrophic corona policy – however, after the first violent night of protest, the president backed off from an announced new curfew.
A lack of uniform demands makes it easy for the Serbian government to demonize the demonstrators: the protests, which have spread to other cities, are a “coup attempt” and the result of the alleged rooting of unspecified foreign powers.
Vucic reported from the government plane on Thursday. “The state will ensure peace and stability, despite the criminal and violent attacks that have shocked everyone,” he said in a video message. How he wants to do this is shown on videos on social media and on the independent news channel N1: police officers use it to beat, beat and kick defenseless protesters. Activist Sergej Trifunovic (47) also claims to have been attacked by a group of government-related hooligans.
Protesters attack journalists
After two days of wild street battles, demonstrators on Thursday called on the ground to sit on the ground during the protest. They wanted to show that it is only a small group of people who use violence.
That only worked for a short time. There were riots in Belgrade again on Friday. Photos show some masked demonstrators who apparently deliberately escalated. A group of nationalist demonstrators entered parliament.
The violent people do not stop at journalists either. “Colleagues from other media were thrown at stones by protesters and their equipment was destroyed,” reports Serbian journalist Rankovic. However, who is the driving force behind the protests is still difficult to classify after four days. “We will see whether it becomes clearer in the next few days what it really is about.”