The latest anti-government protest, announced as “the biggest so far”, started on Saturday, 4 pm, in front of the building of the Serbian National Assembly, with thousands of people coming from all corners of Serbia to join the protesters.
The rally was announced a month ago after the organizers of four-month-long anti-regime protests and Serbia’s opposition block gave a 30-day deadline to the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic and the Serbian government to step down or face a big protest.
On Saturday, the protest organizers put forward demands which, if met, would lead to a dialogue with the authorities which the protesters said they were ready for.
They include the forming of re-defining election rules to be fairer, electing new heads of the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) and new technical and editorial teams at state-run TV stations – RTS and RTV.
Ahead of this Saturday’s rally, the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS) appealed to protesters to remain calm and not to fall for any eventual provocations. The Alliance said they never intended to storm any institution.
The gathering started outside the national parliament building where a big stage was installed which from public figures and opposition leaders addressed the crowd. Inside the building, there were at least a hundred police officers as protection, together with some SNS MPs.
Former judge of the Supreme Court Zoran Ivosevic accused Vucic of being an autocrat. “He is a mentor, leader, advisor, educator, professor. He is all of that and yet (according to the Constitution) he has very limited authority as the president,” he told the crowd.
Ivosevic added that Vucic “conducts both domestic and foreign policy, which is the Government’s job,” adding that Vucic behaved “as a sovereign, thus violating the Constitution.”
“Mr President, you must do what people demand from you during free protests – resign to enable Serbia to return to its Constitution and normal habitat,” the former judge said.
Sergej Trifunovic, the leader of the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) said that the results of those protests would be seen in two to three years.
“Hello, free people, Serbs, Roma, Catholics, Muslims, (soccer rivals) Red Star and Partizan supporters, people from (different Serbia’s towns) Uzice, Cacak, Pirot, Leskovac, hello to all of you who came for a piece of freedom.”
Trifunovic said Vucic divided the whole state into “his servants” and “those who have own opinion”, adding that “that’s an occupying logic.”
Following the speeches, the protesters walked through the city’s centre and came back to the stage outside the national parliament where some opposition leaders addressed them.
The head of the Dveri Movement, Bosko Obradovic thanked people for coming and said “no surrender, all the way to victory. “You are normal Serbia, they are abnormal Serbia”, he said to the protesters.
“The victory day is close,” Vuk Jeremic, one of the SzS leaders told the crowd.
The head of the Democratic Party (DS), Zoran Lutovac said “this regime is based on fear and lies,” adding the leftists and rightists were together “because our house is burning and we are all firefighters.”
Serbia’s former Prime Minister, Zoran Zivkovic estimated that 35,000 people gathered in Belgrade, “the largest anti-government rally in the capital since October 5, 2000,” when hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out, and it resulted in dethroning of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.
“What we missed was October 6 (the lack of lustration of the previous regime), and I bear a part responsibility,” Zivkovic said and asked the crowd for a round of applause for the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic who was assassinated on March 12, 2003, outside his office, and people responded.
Serbia’s former President Boris Tadic was booed by the crowd and said that “a big and dangerous fight is ahead of us because we have a dangerous enemy and it’s important that we are together.”
Reports from several places in Serbia says private bus companies which agreed to take protesters to Belgrade later cancelled the deal, explaining they were getting phone calls advising them not to offer the service.
In the town of Pancevo, some 13 kilometres north of Belgrade, public transport was cancelled “due to lack of fuel and staff,” and residents reported the taxi drivers refused to drive them to Belgrade.
Other reports said the police had stopped cars on the way to Belgrade what the Interior Ministry denied.
(Krik, Danas, B92, 14.04.2019)
Photo credits: Tanjug / AP