Thousands rally against violence in Serbia after mass shootings

·2-min read
The protesters called for the resignation of a number of top officials
The protesters called for the resignation of a number of top officials

Tens of thousands demonstrated in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Monday, with the protesters calling for the resignation of top officials and the curtailing of violence in the media, after back-to-back shootings stunned the Balkan country.

The "Serbia against violence" demonstration saw members from across the country's political divide come together after last week's shootings -- where 17 people were killed in less than 48 hours, including nine at an elementary school in Belgrade.

"We demand an immediate stop to further promotion of violence in the media and public space, as well as responsibility for the long-standing inadequate response from competent authorities," the leftist Let's Not Let Belgrade Drown party said in a statement.

The demonstrators gathered in front of the country's parliament before taking to the streets to rally near Serbia's government offices.

Thousands also rallied in the northern city of Novi Sad, where protesters threw flowers into the Danube river, which flows downstream to the capital.

"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, an elementary school teacher, told the crowd in Belgrade.

"We want safe schools, streets, villages and cities for all children."

The protesters also called for the resignation of a number of top officials -- including the interior minister and head of Serbia's intelligence agency.

On Sunday, the country's education minister stepped down, citing the "cataclysmic tragedy" caused by last week's school shooting in his resignation letter.

The opposition is also demanding that reality shows known for promoting violence should be taken off air along with banning pro-government newspapers that regularly stoke tension with crude articles targeting political dissidents.

Following the rally, President Aleksandar Vucic dismissed the protests during a live interview, calling it a "political" stunt.

"I asked truly and sincerely... people not to organise something like this, not because I was in any way scared or threatened, but because I felt that it was not good for the country," said Vucic.

After the shootings last week, Vucic vowed to "disarm" Serbia with an ambitious plan that would crack down on legal and illicit firearms in the country.

Serbia has the highest level of gun ownership in Europe, with roughly 39 out of 100 people owning firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey research group.