Serbia shootings: Tens of thousands Join protests
After two mass shootings in Belgrade and another city, tens of thousands of Serbs joined protests against gun violence.
In the shootings that took place on Wednesday and Friday, seventeen people were killed. Eight of them were children at a primary school.
Protesters demanded the resignation of government officials at all levels and wanted newspapers and television stations that they said promoted violence to be shut down.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic condemned the protests.
He accused the opposition of capitalizing on a national tragedy to promote their own interests. He said he was ready to test his party’s popularity at a snap vote.
“I will continue to work and I will never back down before the street and the mob… Whether it will be a reshuffle of the government or an election, we shall see,” he said on TV.
The next parliamentary elections are set to take place in 2026.
Police were stationed near all of Belgrade’s schools as they restarted classes on Monday. The government is planning to recruit more officers to be stationed at schools.
Crowds marched through the center of the city behind a banner that read “Serbia against violence”.
“We are here because we can’t wait any longer. We’ve waited too long, we’ve been silent too long, we’ve turned our heads too long,” Marina Vidojevic, a schoolteacher, told the crowd, as quoted by AFP news agency.
“We want safe schools, streets, villages, and cities for all children.”
Thousands also turned out across the northern city of Novi Sad, where protests threw flowers into the Danube River which flows to the capital.
The protesters called for the resignation of the interior minister and the head of Serbia’s intelligence agency.
Serbia’s Education Minister, Branko Ruzic, stepped down on Sunday, citing the “cataclysmic tragedy” of the recent school massacre in his resignation letter.
Serbia has the highest rates of gun ownership in Europe, with about 39 out of 100 people owning guns according to a 2018 survey.
Mr Vucic has started a one-month amnesty for surrendering illegal weapons, with people able to drop off their guns to police with no questions asked.
The amnesty will last 30 days.
On the first day of the amnesty around 1,500 guns were surrendered, according to Serbian police.