Several major Western media outlets have reported on the protests and roadblocks in Serbia, saying that thousands of citizens have taken to the streets to express strong opposition to the lithium exploitation project to be implemented by the Rio Tinto Company.
The American newswire, Associated Press reported that thousands of demonstrators in Belgrade and other Serbian cities blocked main roads and bridges, protesting against the planned lithium mine ‘despite police warnings and a campaign of intimidation by the authorities against the protesters’.
Whistling and chanting “Revolt! Revolt!”, protesters stopped traffic on the main motorway stretch through the Serbian capital, the agency said, adding that the main road in the city centre was blocked in Nis and the bridge over the Danube in Novi Sad.
Both the AP and the Washington Post also reported about the brawl in Novi Sad, saying that “a handful of football hooligans threw stones and bottles at protesters who then chased them away”. One hooligan was severely beaten. Also, masked men threw torches at protesters in Belgrade. Uniformed police did not show up during the protests and these are ‘the most massive demonstrations against the populist government in Serbia in the last few years’.
The AP news agency recalls that Saturday’s protest is the second of its kind in the country, called for by environmental groups “at a time of growing public dissatisfaction with the autocratic government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić”. The environmental groups criticised Vucic’s “populist government” for not fighting enough against widespread pollution, the AP said, adding that the activists were “particularly opposed to two adopted laws that are the basis for the ‘Rio Tinto’ lithium mining project in western Serbia”.
Vučić ignored the protests and visited the area around the village where the Rio Tinto Company plans to start its digging operations. Vučić and other Serbian officials criticised the protests and reportedly claimed that they were “financed by the West to destabilise the country and bring the opposition to power”.
Many protesters complained that police officers paid visits to them in their homes and warned them of possible legal consequences and sanctions if they took part in environmentalist demonstrations. There were roadblocks all over Serbia, including the second-largest city, Novi Sad, followed by Sabac in western Serbia, Uzice and Nis in the south and Zajecar in the east, the agency concluded.
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