Police in Belgrade have used tear gas to disperse crowds, the supporters of the Serbia against Violence coalition, protesting over alleged fraud in last week’s general election. More than 30 people were arrested during the demonstration and eight police officers were injured, according to the head of the police, Ivica Ivkovic.
The police intervened after some of the crowd outside the city hall smashed windows and attempted to force their way in. Associated Press reported that on Sunday night shielded riot police barricaded themselves inside Belgrade’s town hall, firing teargas as protesters broke windows on the entrance of the downtown building. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
On the other hand, opposition activists say police used excessive force on Sunday.
“Those arrested are suspected of attempting to violently change the constitutional order, and of violent behaviour at a public meeting according to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia,” said Radomir Lazovic, from the Green-Left Front coalition and added that officers beat him and a number of other people with truncheons.
The protesters claim that the government manipulated the elections won by the ruling party, while Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic branded the allegations are “rubbish and lies”.
Vučić said on Sunday that the claims were lies promoted by the political opposition. He also suggested the unrest was instigated from abroad. Addressing the nation during the protest outside Belgrade town hall, he called the demonstrators “thugs” who would not succeed in destabilising the state and said: “This is not a revolution.”
“Those arrested are suspected of attempting to violently change the constitutional order, and of violent behaviour at a public meeting according to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia,” said Ivica Ivkovic, adding that the number of arrests was likely to rise.
Srdjan Milivojevic and Vladimir Obradovic, two opposition leaders, tried to open the door to the building. Police used pepper spray to repel the protesters.
Opposition leaders suspect agents provocateurs were involved in smashing windows, triggering the police intervention.
Belgrad students gathered today in front of the Ministry of State Administration to demand the re-counting of ballots. In the event that the Ministry does not comply with the demands, the students are threatening to organize a blockade of two areas of Belgrade, although for security reasons they refused to reveal which ones.
(N1, Vreme, 25.12.2023)
Photo credits: Marko Djurica/Reuters
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