Serbia: Anti-lockdown protests mature into anti-government protests as daily case count spikes

Thousands of protesters across Serbia demonstrated against President Aleksander Vucic’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Demonstrators were defying a ban on mass gatherings amid a spike in virus infections, they tried to storm into the Serbian parliament in central Belgrade, throwing bottles, firecrackers, rocks and flares.

Protesters removed metal fencing and attacked policemen.

Police first used their shields to push back the protesters and prevent them from entering the building.

But after repeated attacks, they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, and then ended up in running battles with demonstrators.

Several people were arrested and injured.

The demonstrations were at first driven by frustration over economically stifling measures to contain the pandemic, but soon evolved into anti-government rallies demanding the resignation of President Vucic.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced the highest daily number of deaths, 18, on Friday since the start of the pandemic in the Balkan country. She said 386 new confirmed were recorded cases in the past 24 hours. That brings the total to more than 17,300 confirmed cases and 352 deaths since March.

She said “hospitals are packed with sick” and urged people “to respect the measures in place” to restrict the spread of the virus.

Critics say the government’s decisions to allow football matches, religious festivities, parties and private gatherings to resume in May and parliamentary elections to go ahead on June 21 are to blame for the new surge in infections.