Protestors marched in Belgrade on Friday and Saturday and demanded the country’s populist leader, Aleksandar Vucic, step down. The people's anger towards the government resulted from two recent mass shootings, showcasing an uptick in violence in Serbia.
Posters displaying President Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in prison clothes and chants such as “Vucic Go Away” could be heard throughout the capital.
Demands were made by protestors, stating that they would “radicalize” if they were not met by a particular deadline. The demands include the resignation of Serbia’s top security officials including Bratislav Gasic, the interior minister, and secret service chief Aleksandar Vulin. Another demand, which was voiced by actor and main speaker Nenad Hadzi Maricic, was that the national broadcasting rights of pro-government TV stations, such as Pink TV and Happy TV, be terminated. Protestors gave the government until the end of the week to meet their needs.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the biggest protests since war criminal and former Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, was overthrown in 2000.
"We must remain persistent in our demands," Aleksandar Saran, one of the protesters told Reuters. "Our demands are not abstract, we just want to live in a healthy environment."
The movement, “Serbia Against Violence, is highlighting how much violence has recently occurred in the country. Two major mass shootings happened last month, claiming the lives of 18 people and wounding 20 others, many of which were young children. The protests this past weekend took place to commemorate the one-month anniversary of a school shooting carried out by a 13-year-old on May 3. The next day, May 4, killed eight in a shooting rampage in a small town outside of Belgrade. Protesters are blaming this “culture of violence” on the government-controlled media outlets.
“We cannot return the lives to the victims, but we can make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” actor Milan Maric said while addressing the crowd. “We want Serbia without violence, Serbia with hope.”
The opposition organized because they were unsatisfied with President Vucic and his response to the shooting, all while failing to tackle the issue of media outlets promoting violence on their television programs. Several Serbian reality shows have featured convicted criminals, murderers, and even scenes of men beating up women.
Brnabic said she is prepared to step down if that is what is best for the future of Serbia. Vucic does not believe his government is at fault.
“Is the government to blame for crimes that happened? I cannot accept that,” he told Reuters on Friday.
Serbia’s recent history has involved a lot of gun violence and it has now permeated itself into the culture of the country, becoming the norm. This comes as a result of two recent wars the country started with Bosnia and with Kosovo. Tensions between them and each nation are still high and within the country itself.
“I expect the protest to continue, because there is no other way,” a protestor named Milica said to Al-Jazeera. “I think, at one point, the government will have to give in, this is a large number of people and eventually they will have to give in to this pressure.”
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