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News 08 Sep 16

Serbia Waterfront Protesters Call Fresh Rally

Activists announce new demonstration on September 29 in protest against continuing official silence about mystery riverbank demolitions.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
One of the protests organized by "Let's not drown Belgrade". Photo: Masina/Matija Jovanovic

The civic movement “Let's not drown Belgrade” [“Ne davimo Beograd”) has scheduled another rally for September 29, almost five months after it remains unknown who controversially demolished buildings in the Belgrade Waterfront project area.

Dobrica Veselinovic, a member of the movement, criticized the fact that, despite several big street protests, media pressure and appeals from experts, the identity of the culprits is still unknown and no one from the city, police or the state authorities has accepted responsibility.

“We are organizing the protest to show that there are still citizens who to do not agree with this situation and who think that… those responsible must bear the consequences,” Veselinovic said.

Veselinovic said the activists still sought the resignations of a number of officials, including the Police Minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Mayor of Belgrade, Sinisa Mali, the acting Belgrade police chief, Vladimir Rebic, the Communal Police chief, Nikola Ristic, and the President of the City Assembly, Nikola Nikodijevic.

On the night of April 24, a group of masked men demolished several sites on the riverbank in the Savamala district on Hercegovacka street where the state-backed Belgrade Waterfront is to be built.

Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic in his subsequent report said the authorities purposefully refused to respond to calls from people who saw around 30 masked men armed with baseball bats and equipped with diggers tearing down buildings on the riverbank and allegedly beating up local residents.

Belgrade city and police authorities have since maintained that they do not know who carried out the demolitions.

In an attempt to soothe public anger, Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic admitted that top officials in the City of Belgrade were involved in the April 24 action, while simultaneously slating opponents of the project as “foreign mercenaries”.

Serbia’s Prosecution Office has still not announced the results of an investigation.

Pro-Government media, such as Studio B, Pink TV and the tabloid newspaper Informer have since stuck to the “foreign mercenary” claims, maintaining that “Let’s not drown Belgrade” is financed by the West, especially by the business magnate and philanthropist George Soros.

Veselinovic said the accusations had resulted in several threats being made to members of the movement, adding that they had reported these to the police.

While Serbia's government sees the Belgrade Waterfront development as a major contribution to the city’s economic future, critics claim the deal struck with Eagle Hills, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, is unconstitutional because it involves the suspension of Serbian laws on the Waterfront’s designated territory.

Many people living along the Sava river quayside also say the development will be bad for society as a whole and will only serve the interests of the wealthy.

The project includes luxury office and apartment buildings, a promenade, a huge mall, a number of five-star hotels and a tower.

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