On December 4, for the second weekend in a row, citizens gathered to protest against the adoption of the Law on Expropriation and the Law on Referendum, and the implementation of the Rio Tinto Jadar project.
Citizens blocked roads in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš and dozens of smaller cities in Serbia for two hours.
Protest was organised by of the Ecological Uprising, the Open Civic Platform “Action”, Don’t let Belgrade D(r)own movement, Kreni-Promeni, and supported by a number of environmental and civic organizations and initiatives. On Sunday evening, Nebojsa Zelenović from the “Action” platform stated that over one hundred thousand citizens took part in the blockade.
The manifestation of civil disobedience went on peacefully and mostly without incidents, with a few exceptions. There was a provocation in Novi Sad when a brick was thrown at those gathered; a number of protesters retaliated against the attacker, after which a fight broke out in which four people have been injured. In the city of Vranje, a motorcyclist tried to break through the crowd, and in New Belgrade a citizen was knocked down by a car.
Several attacks on media representatives also occured. During reporting from the protest in Belgrade, a journalist working for the Fonet agency, Davor Lukač, was attacked; in Novi Sad VOICE cameraman Vladimir Šper was pepper-sprayed, and in Valjevo city cameraman of TV Valjevo plus, Aleksandar Milinković, was punched.
Although the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced last week that they would react harshly to the protests, which they even called fascist, the gathering was marked by an almost complete absence of uniformed persons. The participants testified that a large number of plainclothes police officers attended the protest. Saturday morning the police visited the homes of those who called for the protest via social networks In several places in Serbia.
The biggest blockade, in which several thousand people took part, took place on the Gazela Bridge in Belgrade. Pictures of the blocked E-75 highway flooded the internet, while locally pro-regime media have tried to downplay the scope and significance of the protests in their reports.
On Saturday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić met with a group of locals in Gornje Nedeljice, one of the villages endangered by the planned mining. On that occasion, he made a public promise that he would try to engage “in making a new Law on Amendments to the Law on Expropriation”, on which the Assembly would decide by urgent procedure, RFE reports. Vučić also promised that he would demand that the tailings be removed from the plan, which the representatives of the opposition assessed as relativizing the problem.
In the meantime, the lower trial court in Valjevo city passed a temporary decision banning the work of the company Euro Lithium Balkans until the end of the court case initiated by the “March from Kolubara” movement before the Ministry of Mining and Energy, N1 reported.
The deadline for signing the Law on Expropriation—which is still awaiting the president’s signature—is Friday, December 10. Protest organizers have called for a new roadblock if the signing does take place. Some of the organizers added new requests to the list.
Namely, Nebojsa Zelenović from the party Together for Serbia and the Open Civic Platform “Action” said at a press conference on Sunday that the green-left bloc, in addition to withdrawing the disputed laws, will demand that a “law deleting the plans for the mine in Jadar” be passed and that the members of the Regulatory Authority of Electronic Media (REM) council step down from duty. The immediate reason for the request for their dismissal is the statement of the president of the REM council, Olivera Zekić, that the protesters were bandits who should be arrested, Zelenović said at the press conference. The proposal to expand the list of demands has caused public controversy.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Dec 6, 2021.
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