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Tens of thousands of Serbs demonstrated on Friday demanding better security and more cabinet resignations. The backdrop is two recent mass shootings.
In what was the second major demonstration in less than a week, protesters blocked a key street and intersection in the capital Belgrade as well as a bridge over the Sava River.
At the front of the protest march were people carrying a banner with the text “Serbia against violence”. There were similar demonstrations in other cities on Friday.
– For me, the primary message is that the violence must stop. I am here for my daughter and all our children,” protester Bojana told Reuters.
Two mass shootings in two days
In what was the country’s first major school shooting, a 13-year-old shot and killed eight students and a security guard on May 4. Another six students and a teacher were injured.
The following day, a 21-year-old shot and killed eight people with an automatic rifle and wounded a further 14. Both perpetrators surrendered to the police.
The protesters, who primarily support the opposition, are asking for pro-government TV stations and tabloids, which they believe promote violent and vulgar content, to be shut down.
– This is a message against violence at all levels, from the media to the parliament, to what happens on the streets, said protester Velimir Jerkic in Belgrade. There were similar demonstrations in other cities.
Accused of being authoritarian
The opposition and human rights groups accuse President Aleksandar Vucic and his right-wing SNS party of acting autocraticautocraticAn autocracy is a form of government where most of the political power is concentrated in the hands of an individual or a small group, with few restrictions on how this power is exercised. Source: Great Norwegian Lexicon..
They believe they suppress the media, are guilty of violence against political opponents and corruption, and that they have ties to organized crime. Vucic and his allies deny all charges.
Earlier on Friday, Vucic accused the opposition of “playing with people’s emotions” and he called on his supporters to stage a large demonstration on May 26.
Cabinet resignation and weapons amnesty
Education Minister Branko Ruzic resigned after the school shooting in Belgrade, following demands from both the opposition and human rights groups in the wake of the school shooting.
The demonstrators are asking that the Minister of the Interior, Bratislav Gasic, and the head of the country’s state security agency also resign, and that the state committee for regulation of the media be disbanded.
In response to the shooting, Serbian police have launched a month-long amnesty for surrendering illegal weapons. According to Vucic, around 10,000 weapons and large quantities of ammunition have been handed in.
Serbia has a strong gun culture. Like the rest of the Western Balkans, the country is also crammed with military weapons after the war in the Balkans in the 1990s. Mass shootings are nevertheless rare.
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