Protesters storm public broadcaster HQ in Serbia, face off with riot police (VIDEOS)
Activists protesting against the government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stormed the headquarters of the country's public broadcaster, RTS, on Saturday evening. Tensions were running high early in the day when huge crowds of opposition activists swarmed the streets to march to the RTS offices to call for more press freedom.
Anti-govt protesters in Belgrade start their march through Serbia's capital, blaring music as they go.— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) March 16, 2019
They’re heading to public broadcaster RTS, where they’ll stage a 2-hour sit-in to highlight their demands for more #mediafreedom and room for opposition voices.#1od5milionapic.twitter.com/NceUxvTXeo
The protesters initially planned to stage a two-hour sit-in in front of the building. However, the situation soon spiraled out of control. While they were chanting slogans outside, a group of protesters led by the leader of the right-wing Dveri party, Bosko Obradovic, and his ally, prominent opposition politician Dragan Djilas, stormed the officers, occupying several floors.
As the opposition attempted to take over the broadcaster, riot police blocked the entrances, preventing more people from sneaking onto the premises, while calling on the activists hunkered down inside to come out voluntarily.
Protesters also plastered the walls and doors of the offices with a tape reading "It has begun," one of the slogans of the '1 od 5 miliona' (one of five million) protests that have been gripping Serbia since November last year, following an attack on opposition politician Borko Stefanovic and several other attacks on outspoken government critics.
#1od5miliona anti-govt protesters have put tape across elevators, walls, doors and TVs inside public broadcaster RTS saying “It has begun”, referring to their movement aimed at getting Serbian President Vucic and his governing Progressives out of power. pic.twitter.com/mZE8Jh7Vah— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) March 16, 2019
The protesters inside, however, were adamant about not going anywhere until they were given airtime.
Speaking to the media before the events took a violent turn, Obradovic insisted he would not resist when police come to remove them.
"We won't resist. We are not here for any kind of violence," Obradovic said, as reported by the Balkan Insight.
Right-wing Dveri leader Bosko Obradovic tells media that police will force #1od5miliona protesters inside public broadcaster RTS to leave the building at 9pm.— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) March 16, 2019
He said: “We won’t resist. We are not here for any kind of violence.” pic.twitter.com/GAYZAsNCeK
But when riot police moved in, Obradovic called on fellow protesters to defy police orders and close their ranks.
With riot police now trying to get protesters to leave the premises of public broadcaster RTS, right-wing Dveri leader Bosko Obradovic is calling for demonstrators to stick together so they can’t be forced out one-by-one.— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) March 16, 2019
They're demanding to be put live on air.#1od5milionapic.twitter.com/sTHxbjwlQc
Videos have surfaced on social media showing police rounding up protesters and dragging them from the building as they put up fierce resistance.
Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin called the protesters who occupied the RTS offices "fascists," demanding they receive harsh punishment for their actions.
The 'One of five million' movement decries the Serbian government's human rights record, demands more respect for civil liberties, including freedom of the press. Its name was inspired by Vucic's remark that he won't cater to the protesters even if "five million show up on the streets," which is two million less than the total population of Serbia.
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