Belgrade, 11 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The area in front of the Serbian parliament resembled a war zone on three of four nights of protests against Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic this week, but Saturday evening was calmer.
Around 500 to 1,000 people were dispersed over the eight lanes of the street in front, as well as the broad pavements and the park across the street. Many were seated.
Another regular protest – a march against Kosovo’s secession, with people carrying banners with icons printed on them and religious songs blasting from loudspeakers – passed through the crowd, which met it with applause.
But the atmosphere was still thick with anticipation, as every night since Tuesday groups of hooligans eventually appeared and incited violence.
Small groups of men that fit the image walked the streets around the parliament. Police patrolled the streets and several groups of suspected hooligans were stopped by officers, briefly interrogated, whisked into vans and driven away.
As over the past two nights, there was no riot police in front of the parliament, only the portable metal barrier. But on both days they were deployed inside the building and more, including a mounted unit with horses, were on standby in the back.
The protests began on Tuesday after Vucic announced that Belgrade would be under curfew over the weekend because of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation. But Vucic backtracked amid pressure and the curfew was never imposed.
Violent clashes erupted each night since, except on Thursday when the sit-down protesters opposing violence seemed to prevent the hooligan groups.
Each night the aggressive and apparently well-organized hooligans went over the barrier and moved against police or entered the parliament, throwing anything they could lift at the cordon in front of them.