BELGRADE, Feb. 3 - Literally thousands of police have started to forcibly clear the pro-democracy demonstrators from the center of Belgrade. Scores of people are said to have savagely beaten by the police including, Vesna Pesic, one of the three ZAJEDNO opposition leaders. Pesic is said to have been also beaten by the police, and has suffered a severe injury to her arm.
Police used water cannons on and around Branko bridge (one of Belgrade's bridges across the river Sava) in sub-freezing temperatures (-30C) against a group of demonstrators led by Vuk Draskovic, another ZAJEDNO leader. Skirmishes between the police and the protesters are taking place at the Zeleni Venac market, in the Narodnog Fronta street as well as at Terazije Square.
An unidentified woman (whom this writer suspects, based on her voice, was Danica Draskovic, the wife of the SPO opposition leader), told the independent B-92 radio at about 00:45 (BG time) that she and others had been beaten by the police near Branko bridge, and had to seek refuge at a nearby private home.
A crew of Braca Karic TV channel was beaten by the police as they tried to approach and film the action near the Branko Bridge. Their cameras were smashed, and the tapes taken away. Cameraman, Sava Ilic, and reporter, Maja Vidakovic, have been taken to the Emergency Clinical Center with undisclosed injuries.
Fifteen buses full of police were bringing in the reinforcements into the center of Belgrade from the direction of Bulevar Revolucije, the Kneza Milosa street and the Nikola Pasic Square.
There are high concentrations of police around the Patriarchate Building and Saborna Church, as well as in front of the Democratic Party headquarters at Terazije Square. Eyewitnesses report that they are wearing some new, American-made helmets, which is fueling speculation that some sort of special riot police forces were being used.
There are also reports of police brutality and arrests being made in Stari Grad and on Zvezdara, one of the more distant districts from downtown Belgrade.
A large group of student protesters have barricaded themselves inside the Philosophy Faculty building. They are surrounded by the police who tried to break into the building at one point, but were prevented from entering by the student security. There are reports of brutal police clubbings of student protesters taking place at the Student Square.
Some demonstrators are trying to resist the police, and are fighting back mostly by throwing rocks at them. Our sources report that there are scores of injured people throughout the center of Belgrade. Since the situation is still very fluid and chaotic, accurate information about the extent of injuries and the number of casualties is not available at this time.
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