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NEWS UDATE: Police Crackdown in Belgrade
Details of last night's police crackdown in Belgrade continue to
stream in both via e-mail and through the live broadcasts of Radio B92
news in Serbian, available over the Internet.
Shortly after 11:30 p.m., local Belgrade time, following a 2-hour
standoff between the police lines deployed on Branko's Bridge, which
links the Serbian capital with its New Belgrade suburb, and thousands
of demonstrators gathered on both sides of the bridge, Vuk Draskovic,
one of the coalition Zajedno leaders on the spot, asked the protesters
to withdraw from their positions and begin a retreat towards the city
center. In the audio recordings of the events that followed, Vuk
Draskovic can clearly be heard shouting over and over again: "This is
a peaceful protest! Do no react to any provocation! This is a
As the crowd of demonstrators turned back from the bridge and began to
move in the direction of downtown Belgrade, police squads stationed on
Branko's Bridge cornered the demonstrators, using both water cannon
and tear gas. Other police units, deployed on the side facing the
crowd, then advanced and, in a pincer movement, trapped the thousands,
among whom are reported to have been large numbers of women and the
elderly. In the ensuing panic, the police went on a free-for-all
rampage down the streets of Belgrade, chasing the demonstrators and
attacking scores of people, usually from the back.
Similar scenes of police violence were repeated elsewhere in the city:
the most brutal attacks seem to have taken place in Kolarceva Street
and in the Republic Square, both in the center of Belgrade.
The exact number of those injured in last night's clashes is still
The medical team of the Student Emergency Medical Center reports that
they have attended to 52 people injured last night. Speaking to Radio
B92 earlier this morning, Dr. Slobodan Ivanovic, head of the
university's Emergency Medical Center, described several scenes of
police violence he himself witnessed in front of the School of
Philosophy. According to Dr. Milanovic, the worst incidents occurred
just after midnight, local Belgrade time, when the police went on a
rampage in downtown Belgrade. In one such incident, and in plain
sight of a medical emergency team, the police severely beat two UofB
students and then refused to allow the physicians present at the scene
to provide any medical assistance to the injured.
Most of those examined by the medical emergency teams suffered back
and head injuries.
According to Radio Index, hundreds of people have sought help in
several Belgrade area hospitals while hundreds more have been
arrested. A Democratic Party announcement, made early this morning,
also mentions a similar number of injured, among whom are two of the
most prominent University of Belgrade professors as well as a federal
MP from Montenegro. The Democratic Party claims to have recordings of
last night's police radio communications ordering several of the riot
squads deployed in downtown Belgrade to systematically arrest all
those "wearing sneakers or found to possess whistles and protest
Among those injured are a number of Yugoslav and foreign reporters.
Journalists belonging to the Yugoslav news agency Beta and the daily
Blic, as well as BK Television, AP and CNN cameramen on the scene were
attacked and beaten by the police, who deliberately ignored their
clearly visible press cards. The most severely injured among the
members of the press was a Ukrainian reporter from Kiev.
Belgrade police headquarters has issued no statement and has so far
refused to comment on last night's events in the Serbian capital.
As a result of the most recent developments in Belgrade, the coalition
Zajedno has announced that it will not be sending its representatives
to the Davos summit, as planned earlier. The next protest rally is
scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. today, local Belgrade time.
Vaska Andjeklovic Tumir