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News 20 Oct 16

Serbia Waterfront Activists Stage Protest Concert

The ‘Let's Not Drown Belgrade’ moving is organising a protest concert timed to coincide with the anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade at the end of World War II.

BIRN Staff
BIRN
Belgrade
Protest organised by civic movement “Let’s not drown Belgrade”. Photo: Milivoje Pantovic/BIRN

“Let's Not Drown Belgrade”, the Serbian campaigning movement opposed to the controversial Belgrade Waterfront development, is staging another protest on Thursday as it continues its drive to seek official responsibility for the night-time demolition of sites presumably intended to make way for the development.

The concert will take place on Belgrade’s central Republic Square, where Marko Vidojkovic, a well-known writer and government critic, will be hosting the event with local bands.

The protest concert will mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from Nazi German occupation at the end of World War II.  The date holds symbolic meaning for the organisers who say they aim to “liberate” the city once again, this time from Serbia’s current governors, the Serbian Progressive Party.

“Let's Not Drown Belgrade” started protesting against the Waterfront project back in 2015. The movement says the project will only benefit the rich and it claims that the deal reached with the UAE-based company Eagle Hills is unconstitutional and not in the public interest. Read more: Belgraders Protest Against Waterfront Deal

Protesters angered by the announced construction of the gigantic Belgrade Waterfront project staged a rally in the Serbian capital on April 26, 2015 against the signing ceremony. Photo: Beta

Soon after, the yellow duck became the symbol of the movement, making its first public appearance in front of the Serbian parliament when MPs were about to adopt a “lex specialis”, a law enabling the expropriation of private and urban land to start the Waterfront. Read more: Giant Duck Becomes Belgrade Resistance Symbol

Members of the Serbian government were startled when they first saw a giant yellow styrofoam duck in front of parliament on April 2, 2015. Photo: Ne davimo Beograd/Facebook

Protests started to grow after the night of April 24, when around 30 masked men demolished buildings overnight in Belgrade’s Savamala district, where the huge complex is to be built.

The nocturnal action was widely seen as a move by the authorities to clear the ground quickly for the government-backed project.

The city authorities have since denied all knowledge about who the 30 masked men were and who told them to demolish buildings in the area. The men allegedly mistreated a number of locals. Read more: Belgrade Officials Deny Green-Lighting Nocturnal Demolition

 Some of the citizens made a joke poster adding the masked person on the Belgrade Waterfront banner. Photo: Facebook

Serbian Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic said in a report in May that Belgrade police refused on purpose to respond to calls from people who saw the masked men armed with baseball bats and equipped with diggers, tearing down buildings.

After examining police documents and listening to recordings of police telephone conversations during the incident, Jankovic concluded that the police were complicit in the demolitions. Read more: Serbian Police Accused over Masked Nocturnal Demolitions

On May 11, around 4,000 people took part in a protest against the authorities, accusing them of being involved in the demolitions and seeking their resignation. Read more: Serbian Protesters Say Authorities Were Behind Demolitions

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The official silence over the demolitions - and the mystery death of one of the eyewitnesses to this event - drew some 10,000 Serbs to a protest rally. The eyewitness died in Belgrade’s Military Medical Academy, VMA. The exact cause of death was not released. Read more: Serbia Waterfront Protesters Push for Resignations

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On June 8, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic admitted that senior officials in the city were behind the demolitions. Read more: Serbian PM Blames Belgrade Officials for Demolitions

On June 25, some 25,000 protesters in the capital took to the streets in their largest demonstration so far, reiterating their demands officials to accept responsibility and resign. Read more: 25,000 Attend Savamala Demolitions Protest in Belgrade

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In July, police and protesters have clashed at a rally, with several demonstrators saying police hit them, while calling for the resignation of Mayor Sinisa Mali.

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Because the prosecution had still not released the results of its investigation into the affair, a fresh rally was held on September 29, which around 15,000 people attended. Read more: Serbia Waterfront Protesters Call Fresh Rally

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In October, “Let's Not Drown Belgrade” and several other civic movements decided to join forces and form a joint front in politics.

Activist Predrag Vostinic from Kraljevo said the main goal of the movement was to re-establish the rule of law, which he said was under pressure from the government. Read more: United Civic Front 'Won't Change Serbian Politics'

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