Tens of thousands of people rallied in Serbia’s capital on Friday for a third time in a month in protest at the government’s handling of a crisis after two mass shootings in the Balkan country earlier this month, even as officials rejected the criticism and ignored their demands.
In a show of defiance, the nationalist right-wing party of autocratic Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic organized a counter-protest in a town north of Belgrade attended by thousands of his supporters.
The opposition protesters in Belgrade were chanting slogans against Vucic, demanding the resignations of two senior ministers and the revocation of broadcasting licenses for two TV networks which, they say, promote violence and glorify crime figures.
Brnabic rejected allegations that the populist authorities were in any way responsible for the shootings. Instead, she accused the opposition of fueling violence in society and threatening President Aleksandar Vucic. Brnabic blasted the opposition-led protests as “purely political”, saying they were intended to topple Vucic and the government by force.
“You are the core of the spiral of violence in this society,” Brnabic told opposition lawmakers. “You are spewing hatred.”
She also said that “everything that has happened” in Serbia after the mass shootings was “directly the work of foreign intelligence services,” adding that her government could be changed only by the will of the people in elections and not on the streets.
He also attended his party’s rally Friday in the town of Pancevo that started at the same time as the opposition-led protest in the capital.
In his speech, Vucic mirrored his prime minister’s narrative, suggesting the opposition protests had been orchestrated from abroad. He accused his political opponents of trying to take power through violence and “destroy Serbia.”
“There can be no (coming to) power without elections,” Vucic told the crowd. “I will never serve foreigners.”
Gasic also confirmed media reports that a man who was recently released from a mental hospital fired an anti-tank missile on Thursday at an empty house from a grenade launcher in the town of Ruma, outside Belgrade. No one was injured in the incident, and Gasic said two people were arrested.
Serbia is flooded with weapons left over from the wars of the 1990s, including rocket launchers and hand grenades. Other gun-control measures declared in the wake of the shootings include better control of gun owners and shooting ranges, a moratorium on new licenses and harsh sentences for possession of illegal weapons.