Thousands denounce Serbian gov’t in wake of mass shootings
Belgrade, May 12 (EFE).- Thousands of people marched in the Serbian capital Friday to demand measures to reduce violence and accuse the government of being responsible for a pair of mass shootings last week that resulted in 17 deaths.
Though neither the opposition parties who organized the event or authorities offered estimates of the size of the crowd, the FoNet news agency said that the column of protesters extended for 1.5 km (0.9 mi) down a main thoroughfare in Belgrade.
Participants gathered outside parliament under the banner “Serbia Against Violence” and made their way to the city center, blocking traffic on an international highway for more than an hour.
Demonstrators marched in silence, aside from cries of “go away” as they passed the office of conservative President Aleksandar Vucic.
Organizers said the roadblock was meant as a warning that the protesters are prepared to shut down the country if the government does not meet their demands, including the resignations of the interior minister and the head of the Security Intelligence Agency.
The activists also called for the cancelation of sensationalist reality programs aired on television networks close to the governing party and the shutdown of tabloids that they say “promote hate and violence.”
Parliament is due to meet in emergency session on May 18 to review the public safety situation in the country.
The Vucic government says that the opposition is seeking to exploit the tragedies for political gain and that the protests are not contributing to solving the problem.
On May 3, a 13-year-old boy went on a shooting spree at his school in Belgrade, killing eight classmates and a security guard and wounding a teacher and six other students.
He used a licensed handgun belonging to his father.
Less than 48 hours later, a 21-year-old man shot 22 people – eight of them fatally – in three villages near Mladenovac, about 50 km (30 mi) south of the capital.
Police caught up with the suspected shooter at the home of a relative, where they found him in possession of four hand grenades, multiple guns, and a significant quantity of ammunition.
The suspect was wearing a T-shirt with a pro-Nazi slogan, Vucic said last week in a televised address, vowing to impose stricter gun control measures to “disarm Serbia.”
The most recent mass shooting in Serbia prior to last week took place in 2013. EFE sn/dr