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Serbia: Tens of thousands protest against gun violence

May 20, 2023

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Belgrade for a third time to protest over violence. Protesters are calling for the resignation of the interior minister and the head of intelligence.

Tens of thousands of people rally in Serbia's capital
Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic has dismissed the protests as a "political" stunt Image: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

Protesters gathered in the tens of thousands in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, on Friday, marching against violence in the country.

This is the third major demonstration following two mass shootings that killed 18 people this month.

On May 3 a teenage boy killed nine pupils and a security guard in the country's first school mass shooting, and just a day later a 21-year-old man killed eight people outside Belgrade.

What do the protesters want?

Opposition parties accuse the country's government, led by President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), of failing to take action against television channels broadcasting violent content.

They also say the government is not acting against criminal elements in Serbian society and have called for the resignation of Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and the head of intelligence.

"I came here to protest against living in this country the way it is now, against violence which is visible everywhere in public speech, in media, against this evil we are living in and against the way this country is being led," a university professor who gave her name as Vera told Reuters news agency.

On Friday, members of the opposition stormed out of a special session of parliament and accused the ruling party of trying to "silence the rally" rather than deal with the issues being raised by the demonstrators.

"We don't want to be a part of that... we will join the citizens in the protest," Democratic Party President Zoran Lutovac told reporters.

Serbian leader pledges gun controls after shootings

Vucic planning 'biggest gathering in Serbian history'

A counter-rally was held in Pancevo, a town just east of Belgrade, where Vucic accused the opposition of using the mass shootings for self-promotion. "Serbia is fed up with your revolutions," he said.

Vucic has dismissed the protests as a "political" stunt and has planned a demonstration for next week which he has called "the biggest gathering in Serbian history."

kb/sms (AFP, Reuters)