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news 24 Oct 15

Montenegro Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters

Police have fired tear gas and stun grenades at anti-government protesters amid reports of violent clashes across the capital Podgorica.

Dusica Tomovic

Police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse anti-government demonstrators in the capital city Podgorica on Saturday evening, after protesters tried to enter the parliament building.

The interior minister Rasko Konjevic praised the police for protecting state property and preserving peace and order. He said that 15 police officers were injured and over 20 people have asked for medical assistance because of tear gas.

"Police activities are still ongoing, there are people who have been detained," police officials said at a press conference held after midnight. They also confirmed that Andrija Mandic, leader of opposition party Nova, has been detained but said no opposition MPs have been detained by police.

Photo:BiRN/Zeljko Bracanovic.

The area around the parliament building where the rally took place now appears to be empty.

Photo:BIRN/Zeljko Bracanovic.

Security was tight in the capital. Along with a heavy police presence, barricades have been placed around all important state institutions and most streets in the city centre are closed.

At the time of writing, there were several violent clashes at various locations across Podgorica with the police deploying armoured vehicles and using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters.

Earlier, opposition MPs had also attempted to enter the parliament building but were prevented by heavy police forces at the scene. Leaders of the opposition told the crowd that the parliamentary speaker, Ranko Krivokapic, would arrive at parliament to start negotiations on their demands.

Photo:BIRN/Zeljko Bracanovic.

At least 5,000 people attended the rally on Saturday in Podgorica to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, the formation of an interim government and early elections.

Photo:BIRN/Zeljko Bracanovic.

Protesters carried Montenegrin and Serbian flags, while chanting "Milo thief!" referring to Djukanovic.  

The protests, which have been taking place in Podgorica for four weeks, have been organised by a coalition of opposition leaders, non-government organisations and student bodies calling itself the Democratic Front.

Photo:BIRN/Zeljko Bracanovic.

The Democratic Front provided free transportation across the country for citizens who wanted to come to Podgorica to protest. Protesters accuse the government of widespread corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud.

Photo:BIRN/Zeljko Bracanovic.

While stating they understand the "maximum accumulated discontent" of citizens, a number of opposition parties have not openly called on their activists to join the protest on Saturday.

The Democratic Front leaders repeatedly denied claims by the Djukanovic administration that the protests are anti-NATO and supported by Russia and Serbia.

One opposition leader, Milan Knezevic, said that he was ready to step back from politics, "if someone [can] prove that Moscow and Belgrade stand behind the protests".

The 24-hour demonstrations first began in September, as protesters demanded the creation of an interim government to organise what they say would be Montenegro’s “first ever free and fair elections”.

But the protest first turned violent last Saturday, October 17, with police firing tear gas to disband hundreds of protesters.

At least three opposition leaders and several MPs were injured and two journalists were arrested during the violence last weekend, which erupted when protesters tried to march toward the parliament in Podgorica.

A group of 125 prominent intellectuals, independent journalists and civil society activists on Friday announced a ‘Protest Memorandum’, which condemned the violent dispersal of the peaceful demonstration last weekend.

"We appeal to citizens not to allow the destruction of constitutional order and to demand the formation of a national unity government," the memorandum reads.


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