Thousands march against gun violence in Serbia
Mass rallies took place in the Serbian capital Belgrade and the city of Novi Sad on Monday, with crowds demanding that the government takes action after 17 people – including eight children – died in two mass shootings last week. Opposition activists have used the protest to demand the resignations of more government officials, after the education minister’s exit.
Demonstrators marched under the slogan “Serbia against violence.” Activists who claimed to speak on their behalf called for “ending the promotion of violence in the media and in public,” sacking the current media regulatory body, and censoring certain media outlets.
Last Wednesday a 13-year-old student at Belgrade’s Vladislav Ribnikar Elementary School fatally shot eight of his classmates and a security guard, while wounding six more students and a teacher. On Thursday evening, eight more people were killed and 14 wounded in the nearby municipality of Mladenovac. The suspected shooter was arrested after an eight-hour manhunt.
Education minister Branko Ruzic resigned on Sunday in the wake of the incidents. The activists behind the rallies have also demanded the resignations of police minister Bratislav Gasic and director of the BIA security service Aleksandar Vulin.
President Aleksandar Vucic has already proposed the confiscation of unregistered guns, tighter controls on firearm licensing, and a crackdown on media and online content that promotes or glorifies violence.
In an interview on Monday evening, Vucic accused opposition parties of hijacking the Serbians’ grief to further their own agenda, calling them “the worst dregs of politics, just like in 2000,” in reference to the US-backed color revolution.
The most outspoken protesters were “openly anti-Serb,” Vucic said on Happy TV – one of the outlets the opposition wants censored.
“Children are on social media, they play odd [video] games,” he said. “We have to find a solution, but I won’t agree to any kind of censorship.” Vucic also doubted that reality shows were the root cause of violence, since their main audience was 55 and older, but added he was willing to look into regulating them more.
Serbian police have announced a month-long amnesty for turning in illegal weapons, which will run through June 8. On the first day of the campaign, citizens turned in 1,500 firearms, almost 50,000 rounds of ammunition, and about 100 hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and other explosive devices, police said in a statement.