By Filip Rudic
Organisers of the “1 of 5 million” protests against the rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic insist that the protests will retain their civic character, despite political leaders becoming more prominent in the movement, especially after last weekends’ stormy protests.
“The relationship remains the same … the idea is for this to remain a civic protest,” one of the organisers, Srdjan Markovic, told BIRN.
After protesters last Saturday entered the Serbian national broadcaster, RTS, and gathered in front of the Serbian Presidency the following day, some media started asking if the protests were being taken over by political parties.
But the leader of the far-right Dveri party, Bosko Obradovic, who has become prominent in the latest anti-government rallies, on Thursday denied he and others were “taking over” the protest movement.
“The protest cannot be overtaken by anyone because it is an authentic outcry of people reacting to what is happening in their country,” Obradovic told the daily newspaper Danas.
The weekly anti-government protests in Serbia have drawn smaller numbers in the last few weeks, but the rally in Belgrade escalated last weekend, after some people entered RTS and were expelled by police.
The following day, protesters gathered in front of the Serbian presidency where they again clashed with the police while President Vucic was holding a press conference inside.
Several protesters were arrested for the incidents at RTS and some were remanded in custody. Others were rapidly handed misdemeanour charges.
However, after the arrest of an 18-year-old student named Pavle Cvejic caused an outcry, Vucic offered a pardon to all those facing charges, and appealed also to the misdemeanour court to drop the charges. This, however, drew accusations that he was violating the constitution by influencing the courts.
Five protesters, including Cvejic, were released on Wednesday after the court threw out their charges. On the same day, about a hundred Belgrade University students marched in protest against the arrests of their classmates.
Markovic said the arrests showed that the government’s primary target was not opposition politicians but the young – and called for a united front against the system. “We are all the same for this regime. We need to put our differences aside,” Markovic said.