Several thousand people held a peaceful rally in Serbia’s capital Belgrade on December 8 against the “autocratic” rule of President Aleksandar Vucic and his government.
The protest came after a leader of the small opposition leftist party Levica Srbije, Borko Stefanovic, was beaten by a group of men dressed in black clothing in the southern city of Krusevac on November 23. Stefanovic suffered minor injuries. Two other party members were also attacked.
The ministry of interior announced that several suspects were arrested two hours after the assault. However, opposition politicians believe that Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) was involved in the incident, an allegation that has been denied by the party.
People who gathered on the streets in downtown Belgrade shouted “Stop to bloody shirts”.
According to opposition activists, Vucic is an autocratic leader.
The protest was organised by the Alliance for Serbia, whose leader Dragan Djilas is a former mayor of Belgrade.
The party urged dissatisfied citizens to participate in a "civic, non-partisan walk" against “the bloody shirts and violence of the current government."
"Over the past few years, verbal violence has become the basic instrument of the current regime. All who dare to criticise the government of Vucic including activists of civil society, politicians and journalists are the subject of the “atmosphere of lynch, in complicity with the media controlled by the regime,” the announcement of the rally said, according to broadcaster B92.
Stefanovic, who participated in the rally said: “We are fighting for life and freedom.”
“Magnificently tonight in Belgrade. For a better and safer Serbia without bloody shirts and dictatorship,” Stefanovic said in a tweet.
According to the leader of Serbian movement Dveri, Bosko Obradovic, around 10,000 people participated in the rally. He also said that the protest was a sign that people cannot tolerate the regime anymore and have decided to rebel against the authorities.
Vucic, formerly a member of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, joined the SNS, formed by ex-deputy leader of the Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic, in 2008. Vucic’s political orientation has changed dramatically, and he now prioritises reforms and Serbia’s entry to the EU.
Vucic was elected president in April 2017 and he took office in May last year. His election sparked protests across Serbia and he was accused of leading the country towards authoritarianism. His ruling coalition now has a majority of 160 MPs in the 250-seat parliament.
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