- Thousands of people went ahead and gathered in front of the country’s parliament buildings in protest.
- "The government only seeks to protect its own interests, the people are collateral damage."
- Serbia lifted its COVID-19 restrictions in order to hold sporting events and national elections.
The violent clashes that ensued in Serbia on Tuesday continued for the third consecutive day today, with angry protesters storming the nation’s parliament. The demonstrations are most violent in the country’s capital city, Belgrade. The protesters are opposed to the government’s strategy of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite Wednesday’s announcement by President Aleksandar Vucic that the weekend curfew is likely to be lifted, thousands of people went ahead and gathered in front of the country’s parliament buildings in protest. The major accusation has been directed to the president, whom critics have leveled accusations at for having engineered the second wave of the epidemic.
The country’s confinement was quickly suspended by President Vucic in order to hold the June 21 elections. “The government only seeks to protect its own interests, the people are collateral damage,” said Jelina Jankovic, a 53-year-old, who participated in the protest, which brought together citizens from the left to the far right.
Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) comfortably won the election in a vote boycotted by the opposition. Since then, infections with the new coronavirus have skyrocketed to more than 300 cases a day, overcrowding hospitals.
“We’ve had enough of the manipulating of the data of COVID-19,” said another protester, Danijela Ognjenovic, in reference to the talk doing rounds in the country to the effect that the authorities are under-reporting the death toll due to the pandemic.
Though they began peacefully, Wednesday’s demonstration turned chaotic with scenes of violence, after a section of the demonstrators began throwing objects at police officers. In response, the officers threw teargas at them, leading to chaos.
On Wednesday, Vucic announced that he still preferred a new phase of confinement as from the weekend, but stated that his government’s crisis team “will decide today” on the way forward. Vucic called the protesters “fascists,” and stated that he suspected there was “meddling by foreign intelligence.” He didn’t provide any evidence, though.
The Serbian president also acknowledged that some police officers used excessive force on the demonstrators on Tuesday night, and that they would be held squarely responsible for their actions.
Camera men recorded scenes of police brutality. On Tuesday, police officers beat three men with batons who were peacefully seated on a bench. Europe’s Human Rights Commission condemned the police brutality against the protesters, and said that it raises serious concerns about matters of human rights.
The new wave of coronavirus cases comes two months following Serbia’s decision to lift almost all restrictions in order to allow major sporting events with thousands of spectators coupled with the June elections.
In the past two weeks, the country’s daily infections rate has skyrocketed, with the country’s worst day, in as far as the pandemic is concerned, having been on Tuesday. Thirteen people died from the new coronavirus on Tuesday.
So far, the nation’s authorities have recorded nearly 17,000 infections and 330 deaths. The nation’s population is roughly seven million people.