As the government imposed a weekend-long curfew in Serbia in a bid to control the growing number of coronavirus cases in their country, angered citizens took to the streets in Belgrade on Tuesday evening to protest the decision, The Guardian reported.
Per the article, thousands of people thronged the parliament building in the capital city, chanting anti-government slogans against the strict lockdown, which Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Tuesday.
The protest was initially peaceful before a group of people tried entering the parliament building. As a result, the police intervened and started using force and tear gas to disperse the crowd — a move that turned the protest into a violent encounter between the law enforcement agencies and the people.
According to a police spokesperson, protesters threw rocks, bottles, and other objects at officers deployed at the site and also set several vehicles ablaze. Some 17 protesters and 43 police personnel were injured during the protest, while about 23 people were taken into custody, the report detailed.
Despite the heavy police presence and tear gas, protesters are still at the streets of Belgrade. They are re-grouping around the Serbian parliament. Number of demonstrators were also arrested. pic.twitter.com/GKYnNucShB
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) July 7, 2020
As reported by the Serbian regional web portal European Western Balkans, Serbians were angry because of the situation created by the government in relation to the lockdown rules. To contain the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Eastern-European countries, Serbia imposed a lockdown in early March.
In the last week of May, however — a few weeks ahead of the June 21 parliamentary election that was won by Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party — the government suddenly lifted all lockdown restrictions, announcing that the virus had weakened in the country.
Sixteen days after the election, Vucic announced that a strict lockdown must be imposed again as the number of COVID-19 cases had surged in the country. According to the article, some local investigative media reports revealed that the government had deliberately eased the lockdown for the election and had concealed the actual number of coronavirus cases and deaths from the public.
Speaking with the prime ministers of Slovenia and Hungary during an online panel on Wednesday morning, Vucic said that he had refused to impose a complete lockdown in the country a week ago. He did not mention anything related to the protest that had taken place on Tuesday evening.
“Seven days ago I thought to impose once again lockdown in the entire country,” Vucic said, as quoted by The Guardian.
“If we would have done that, we would have no chance to survive economically, and we need to live with this, we need to take all precautionary measures but we need to keep on working very hard, just to protect our business community and our workers.”