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News 15 Feb 17

Thousands Join Protest to Demand Resignation of Belgrade Mayor

Several thousand people took the streets to join the campaign movement ‘Let's Not Drown Belgrade’ in protests demanding the resignation of Belgrade’s mayor over last year’s controversial nocturnal demolitions.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade
Several thousand people prtested in Belgrade demanding resignaiton of Mayor Sinisa Mali. Photo: Natalia Zaba/BIRN

The movement ‘Let’s Not Drown Belgrade', which has been campaigning against the huge government-backed Belgrade Waterfront complex for years, gathered between five and ten thousand people in the Serbian capital to demand that Mayor Sinisa Mali step down.

“Sinisa Mali must not remain Belgrade mayor … We will not step back, these are our streets,” Radomir Lazovic, a participant in the movement, said at the rally.

Vesna Rakic Vodinelic, a law professor at the private Union University who also joined the rally, said citizens were demanding that the prosecution investigate the demolitions and prosecute the perpetrators.

Representatives of the Serbian army as well as police unions, journalists, activists from the initiative Lokani Front from the Serbian cities of Nis and Kraljevo, and representatives of the teachers union of Vojvodina also joined the protesters who gathered in front of Belgrade city assembly before marching to the prosecutor’s office.

During the march, one of the protesters tore down a placard, held by a man standing on the pavement, that said the protesters were foreign mercenaries. The police and other protesters stepped in to separate the two men and stop a potential brawl.

The demonstrations come after Mali’s ex-wife Marija told the Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption, KRIK, that the Belgrade mayor had admitted that he was responsible for the mystery demolitions by masked men in the Serbian capital’s Savamala district last year.

Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian Prime Minister, said in an interview with Serbian public broadcaster, RTS, that Mali would have to bear “political responsibility” for the demolitions.

“He is a good manager … but the atmosphere is that someone has to pay the political price,” Vucic said on Tuesday.

On the night of April 24 last year, about 30 masked men demolished buildings overnight in Belgrade’s Savamala district, where the huge government-backed Belgrade Waterfront complex is to be built.

The nocturnal action, which was widely seen as a move by authorities to clear the ground quickly for the project, sparked mass anti-government protests in Belgrade.

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

In June, Vucic admitted that senior officials in the city were behind the demolitions, a statement that sparked the largest protest yet as some 25,000 protesters poured into the streets to reiterate demands for the officials to accept responsibility and resign.

Photo: Ljubisa Banovic/BIRN
Photo: Natalia Zaba/BIRN
Photo: Ljubisa Banovic/BIRN
Photo: Natalia Zaba/BIRN
Photo: Ljubisa Banovic/BIRN
Photo: Ljubisa Banovic/BIRN

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