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Protests in Serbia Archive
Associated Press on clashes in Belgrade

February 3, 1997


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (Feb. 3) - Thousands of students marched through Belgrade Monday, defying the government a day after riot police used tear gas, water cannons and clubs to crush pro-democracy protests.

Sunday's bloody assault, which left at least 80 people injured, was the biggest show of police force in 2 1/2 months of demonstrations. It could signal that President Slobodan Milosevic was growing impatient and planned to crack down hard on the protests that have shaken his government.

A strike Monday by cab drivers added to the tension. Though the cabbies denied their walkout was linked to the protests, the action snarled traffic in the nervous capital.

Clashes that began at midday Sunday continued into early this morning after riot police smashed through a crowd of thousands and then chased protesters all over downtown Belgrade.

At least eight policemen were among the injured as police fired tear gas and water cannons and swung batons and protesters responded by throwing rocks.

Witnesses told independent radio stations that scores of protesters had been arrested. There was no word on arrests from authorities Monday.

An Associated Press reporter was clubbed on the back, and cameramen for Associated Press Television, Reuters Television and CNN also were beaten.

Two people were hospitalized with broken limbs; other injured people were treated at two clinics. Slobodan Ivanovic of Anlave clinic said several people were seriously injured, including a student who had his front teeth broken.

The protesters demand that the government honor opposition victories in Nov. 17 municipal elections. Milosevic's government has refused to acknowledge opposition victories in Belgrade and other major cities, even though they were confirmed by international observers.

Meanwhile, Germany demanded Monday that Milosevic order his police not to use violence again against protesters.

''Yesterday's violent action by Serb security forces against peaceful demonstrators in Belgrade is a serious blow to democracy and nonviolence,'' said German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.

Protest leaders scheduled a downtown rally for this afternoon, after the separate student march concludes.

Vuk Draskovic told protesters to ''bring everything they need for their defense.'' He vowed there would be ''no more Gandhi-style resistance.''

One opposition leader, Vesna Pesic, was among those beaten by police. She, Draskovic and co-leader Zoran Djindjic all intended to address the afternoon rally.

The police assault followed a tense four-hour standoff Sunday morning on a Belgrade bridge, which began when riot police prevented Draskovic from leading thousands of his supporters to the daily pro-democracy rally.

Other opposition leaders, who joined supporters in different districts of Belgrade, also marched toward the bridge. Hundreds of riot police first used their shields, then brought in two water cannons and fired tear gas.

Meanwhile, police interrogated editors of two independent newspapers in what could be another crackdown on independent media in Serbia.

Police took Petar Lazic, chief editor of the satirical weekly Krmaca, from his home Saturday and questioned him for two hours, the paper's business manager Bosko Savkovic said Sunday.

Lazic was questioned about a satirical photomontage that compared Milosevic to the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. Police said Lazic could face slander charges.

Milosevic previously shut down Radio Index and Radio B 92, another independent station that carries reports of the protests, but bowed to international pressure and allowed them to continue.

AP-NY-02-03-97 0755EST

Thanks to Bob Djurdjevic (TRUTH IN MEDIA Phoenix, Arizona e-mail: bobdj@djurdjevic.com) for sending this article.

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