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World Why coronavirus sparked massive protests in Serbia

13:17  11 july  2020
13:17  11 july  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Protests were sparked earlier in the week after President Aleksandar Vucic announced that a weekend lockdown would be necessary. 5:32 Coronavirus : Miami-Dade mayor says protests could have caused virus spread as COVID-19 numbers continue rising in Florida.

Why the protests began. Serbia saw its deadliest day so far in the pandemic on Tuesday. Small-scale protests are common in Belgrade. An atomised political opposition, and more recently an The scenes reflect a sour mood in Serbia 's capital triggered by Mr Vucic's warning of a weekend lockdown.

For many Serbs, it was the last straw: when the president announced the resumption of a weekend curfew to fight the coronavirus pandemic, thousands took to the streets in anger.

a man doing a trick on a stage: Frustration has been building over the government's rollercoaster response to the coronavirus outbreak © ANDREJ ISAKOVIC Frustration has been building over the government's rollercoaster response to the coronavirus outbreak

Who are these protesters and what caused the outrage? And could the demonstrations, which have degenerated into violence, endanger the rule of President Aleksandar Vucic, who critics accuse of growing authoritarianism? 

a group of people on a stage: Protesters hurl firecrackers and flares at police in a fourth night of demonstrations © Sally MAIRS Protesters hurl firecrackers and flares at police in a fourth night of demonstrations

- Why are people protesting? -

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At the unsanctioned protest last night, “there was all kinds of influence from foreign security services,” Vucic insisted, but provided no further details. The president called upon citizens to refrain from taking part in street rallies to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus .

In Serbia , protestors gathered for the second night outside of the parliament in Belgrade, as well as in other parts of the government, aiming their anger on the government, accusing the president of putting his own interest before those of the country when handling the coronavirus crisis.

Frustration has been building up over Serbia's rollercoaster response to the coronavirus outbreak.

After initially playing down the dangers, authorities swung from ultra-tight lockdowns to a speedy return to normal last month ahead of national elections that cemented Vucic's grip on power. 

Critics blame Vucic for a second wave of infections, which shot up after the June 21 vote.

"Our government is simply looking after its own interest, the people are just collateral damage, said Jelina Jankovic, a protester.

Serbia has reported some 370 fatalities but many accuse authorities of fudging the figures, which the government denies.

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Subscribe to our channel! rupt.ly/subscribe Ruptly is live from Belgrade on Friday, July 10 as anti-government protests sparked by coronavirus measures

In Serbia , protestors gathered for the second night outside of the parliament in Belgrade, as well as in other parts of the government, aiming their anger on the government, accusing the president of putting his own interest before those of the country when handling the coronavirus crisis.

On Tuesday, Vucic announced the return of a round-the-clock weekend curfew to combat the second surge. 

"We relaxed too much, made many errors, and that is an individual blame on all of us", he said.

Protesters outraged by the finger-pointing then flooded into the centre of the capital the same evening.

While the government backtracked on the curfew, the protests have continued against a leader accused of trampling on Serbia's democratic institutions. 

"The pressure cooker is now exploding", said Bonn-based Serbian journalist Nemanja Rujevic, adding that the "unhinged" management of the health crisis compounded long-running frustration over Vucic's authoritarian rule. 

- Who is protesting? -

The demonstrations have not been led by any particular party, with groups spanning from the left to the far-right. 

There are young people and families as well as groups holding religious icons and flags of Serbia's former province Kosovo.

Demonstrators storm Serbian parliament in protest over lockdown

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In Serbia , protestors gathered for the second night outside of the parliament in Belgrade, as well as in other parts of the government, aiming their anger on the government, accusing the president of putting his own interest before those of the country when handling the coronavirus crisis.

In Serbia , protestors gathered for the second night outside of the parliament in Belgrade, as well as in other parts of the government, aiming their anger on the government, accusing the president of putting his own interest before those of the country when handling the coronavirus crisis.

On the first day of protests Tuesday, a far-right group leading the frontline broke into parliament, setting off clashes with the police with tear gar being fired.

Most nights start out peacefully before bands of protesters begin hurling stones, flares and firecrackers at police officers. 

On Thursday, some demonstrators sat down in front of parliament to show they came in peace. Many of them accuse the state of planting 'agents provocateurs' to discredit them.

"I am always in favour of peaceful demonstrations because violence breeds violence and that is not why we came," said 30-year-old Tijana Milojevic. 

Analysts say these divisions could affect the movement.

"If no political leadership is identified the protests will probably die off," as they could be hijacked by the far-right, leading to a loss of popular support, or spawn several clashing factions, said Bosko Tripkovic, a law professor at the University of Birmingham.

- Is Vucic under threat? -

Probably not. 

From prime minister to president, Vucic has been steadily increasing his powers for the past eight years.

Coronavirus: New protests degenerate in Belgrade

 Coronavirus: New protests degenerate in Belgrade Protesters have unleashed their anger after President Aleksandar Vucic announced the reintroduction of a full curfew during the weekend © Marko Drobnjakovic / AP / SIPA New violent demonstrations broke out in Belgrade on July 8, 2020. VIOLENCE - Protesters have unleashed their anger after President Aleksandar Vucic announced the reintroduction of a full curfew during the La weekend. management by the Serbian authorities of the coronavirus crisis has enraged the population.

Ruptly is live from Belgrade on Friday, July 10 as anti-government protests sparked by coronavirus measures continue for the fourth consecutive day. On Wednesday night, 19 policemen and 17 protesters were injured during protests in front of the country’s parliament.

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This has been accompanied by sweeping control over the media with many television channels and tabloids serving as propaganda outlets, according to US-based Freedom House, which no longer considers Serbia a democracy.

The national broadcaster RTS ignored the first night of protests and aired a Jackie Chan film.

"Previous protests in Serbia have shown that the government can tolerate several months of peaceful demonstrations by several thousand people -- as long as it controls the media narrative," said Rujevic.

The main opposition camp boycotted the June election, which means Vucic's party firmly controls parliament. 

For the moment, the crowd is not big enough to worry the president, said Florian Bieber said, a Balkan expert from the University of Graz. 

"With the opposition being divided, it cannot become a serious threat to the government," Bieber said.

- How has the state responded?

Scenes of police brutality captured on television have gone viral, including an incident Tuesday in which officers used batons to beat three men sitting peacefully on a bench.

Yet the Serbian ombudsman has claimed that "no excessive force was used" to quell the protests.

Vucic has branded the protesters "criminal hooligans" and made vague accusations of "foreign meddling".

Pro-government tabloids have evoked "Russian interference".

mbs/ssm/ach 

Serbia's Vucic blames opponents for orchestrating violent protests .
Serbia's Vucic blames opponents for orchestrating violent protestsBELGRADE/PARIS (Reuters) - Protests marred by violence continued on Friday in Belgrade, where thousands rallied against Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and government policies, including its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

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