Coronavirus — Serbian Protests Turn Chaotic, Violent

  • 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.

The first case of COVID-19 in Serbia was reported on 6 March 2020. As of July 9, there have been 17,342 cases and 352 deaths. However, these figures have been disputed.

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.

Parliamentary elections in Serbia, originally scheduled for April 26, were held on June 21, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition around the Serbian Progressive Party won 188 of the 250 seats amid an opposition boycott.

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.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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