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Serbia: Thousands rally in Belgrade after mass shootings

May 8, 2023

Serbians took to the streets to demand better security and the resignation of top officials after two mass shootings, including one at a school, in recent days.

People attend a protest in Belgrade in reaction to recent mass shootings
People protested in Belgrade under the slogan 'Serbia against violence'Image: Zorana Jevtic/REUTERS

Thousands of Serbians marched in silence on Monday in protest against the populist government's reaction to two mass shootings last week

The country has been in shock after 17 people were killed in two separate onslaughts last week. 

A teenage boy brought two handguns to school, killing eight pupils and a security guard. Just two days later, a 21 year-old man killed eight people in central Serbia. 

What are protesters demanding?

Dubbed "Serbia against violence," the march in the capital saw members from across the country's political divide come together.

Demonstrators called for the resignation of top officials, including Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and Aleksandar Vulin, the director of the state security agency. Education minister Branko Ruzic resigned on Sunday, citing the "cataclysmic tragedy" caused by the school shooting.

Serbian leader pledges gun controls after shootings

Protesters also demanded the dismissal of the government's Regulatory Committee for Electronic Media (REM) within a week. They accuse some TV stations and tabloids of promoting violence. 

"We demand an immediate stop to further promotion of violence in the media and public space, as well as responsibility for the long-standing inadequate response from competent authorities," the leftist Let's Not Let Belgrade Drown party said in a statement.

Meanwhile, President Aleksandar Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party decried the rally, saying the opposition was "using a national tragedy for their own interest." 

President wants to 'disarm' Serbia

Vucic has vowed to "disarm" Serbia with a plan to crack down on gun violence. He proposed new measures that include a freeze on gun permits and more psychological checks for owners.

Mass shootings are rare in Serbia — and purchasing a firearm requires a special permit — but the country has one of the highest levels of gun ownership in Europe.

According to the Small Arms Survey research group, around four out of ten people in Serbia are in possession of a firearm.

Despite the requirements preventing people from acquiring a firearm, many are still left over from the wars of the 1990s and remain in circulation.

Vucic has pledged to remove those weapons.

Another mass shooting in Serbia: Idro Seferi reports from Belgrade

fb/jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters)