Seemingly 15,000 people flooded the streets of Central Belgrade Saturday evening, calling for the resignation of the city’s Mayor and Minister of Police. The protest, the third in six weeks, is in response to the demolition of the Savamala neighbourhood and the refusal of the police to intervene.
By: Christopher Guess and KRIK
Protestors of all ages, from infants to the elderly, blew whistles, waved flags and shouted messages expressing disgust of most of the upper echelon of city and state officials. With signs saying “Public space, our space”, “Who’s city? Our city!”, and “truth is betrayal in the empire of lies”, the protestors gathered first in front of the city hall for over an hour of energetic speeches. Speakers included the Serbian film director Janko Baljak and activists from the protest group Ministry of Space. Following the speeches, cars with loudspeakers blasting Beastie Boys songs and people waving rubber duck flags, a symbol of the Ministry of Space, led the assembled group about 2 km through the city centre to the state government headquarters.
While many onlookers were supportive of the demonstration, there was a minority along the route that were not. One sign hung from an apartment balcony saying “you can give the duck to your mom or your dad.” Others honked their horn not in solidarity, but in an attempt to urge traffic forward.
A series of other speeches followed at the government headquarters, while some threw toilet paper into the trees chanting “your lies stink!”, and other banged on sheet metal construction barriers. The protest peacefully disbanded on its own after about thirty minutes.
On April 25, 2016, men wearing masks and armed with baseball bats held back private citizens as unknown individuals demolished a popular nightlife district. When concerned and angry citizens attempted to contact police they were told that the police had orders from superiors that prevented them from responding. Instead, the witnesses were purportedly tied up and held for a number of hours. One of the witnesses who claimed he was tied up died last month of a heart attack.
Though he denied that the witnesses were detained, the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksander Vucic, did admit that “high city officials” ordered the demolition. He continued that the perpetrators should be brought to justice, but only because of the way the demolition was carried out. He expressed his support of the result however, saying that he would like to see something much nicer built in its place.