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Protesters block motorway in Serbian capital after mass shootings

By AFP - May 13,2023 - Last updated at May 13,2023

Demonstrators march during a rally to call for the resignation of top officials and the curtailing of violence in the media, just days after back-to-back shootings stunned the Balkan country, in Belgrade, on Friday (AFP photo)

BELGRADE — Tens of thousands of demonstrators blocked a major motorway in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Friday to demand the resignation of top officials and curtailing violence in the media after two shootings that killed 17 people last week.

It was the second “Serbia Against Violence” rally this week drawing thousands to the streets.

Several opposition parties had called the protest after back-to-back shootings whose victims included eight students and a security guard in a Belgrade elementary school.

“I felt the need to come here because of my children and because I want to live in Serbia without violence,” Zdravko Jankovic, a 48-year-old activist, told AFP.

The demonstrators want the government to revoke the broadcasting licences of television channels that promote violent content and ban pro-government newspapers which stir tensions by targeting political dissidents.

They have also demanded the resignation of the interior minister and the head of the intelligence service and called for a special parliamentary session to discuss the government’s response to the shootings.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has dismissed the protests as a “political” stunt.

“They scheduled their political rallies during national mourning days, with a sole purpose of violence and violent seizure of power,” Vucic said in a televised interview.

The president has scheduled a separate rally for his own supporters later this month, which he has been billed as the “biggest gathering in Serbian history”.

Vucic has vowed to “disarm” Serbia with an ambitious plan that would crack down on legal and illicit firearms.

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.

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