Tear gas, water cannons, smashed heads, attacks on journalists, detention of activists – another election in Serbia

Local elections were held in close to 90 cities and local municipalities in Serbia. The day was marked by irregularities and violence against citizens who tried to prevent them.

SNS call center at the Novi Sad Fair; Photo: Bravo Novi Sad

If you live in Serbia and have friends and family abroad, they might have been calling you throughout Sunday to check if the civil war has started, shocked by the reports of violence in the voting places and call centers.

The election day was marked by scenes of conflict between the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) machinery and citizens who were trying to prevent election irregularities.

A brick to the head

It is difficult to decide on the most dramatic scene of the elections.

In Zemun polje settlement in Belgrade, an activist of the Green-Left Front suffered head injuries from being hit with a metal rod, but the president of the local SNS board was also injured in the conflict.

During those events, the editor of our portal, Marko Miletić, was also attacked. He was attacked by several people while he was filming duplicate voter lists that opposition activists and members of the City Election Commission gave him for inspection after they received them from SNS activists.

Attack on the co-editor of Mašina; Printscreen, Mašina

The Progressives protected cardboard boxes of duplicate voter lists by water cannons and tear gas

Tear gas and water pouring from the snot on the citizens who broke into a Serbian Progressive Party call center at the Novi Sad Fair must have been one of the most striking sights. It is complemented by pictures of the Progressives’ “activists” running away from the Fair building, carrying cardboard boxes full of papers suspected to be duplicate voter lists.

Some of them didn’t just run away with T-shirts over their heads, but were furious that they were interrupted – so one of the “hard-working ants” from the call center hit Danas’ journalist Uglješa Bokić with his fist while retreating.

The Progressives reacted to these events in a way that raises blood pressure. A Serbian Progressive Party’s press release states that “about a hundred citizens” carried out a “brutal and destructive attack on the public property of the Novi Sad fair, on the premises that were legally and legitimately leased by the SNS, and where the party’s call center is located.” “‘Vandals and criminals, about 100 of them, tried to break into the premises where the call center is located, broke down the doors and destroyed everything in front of them,” The Progressives stated. The SNS emphasized that the party’s call center legally leased the premises and that it worked according to the law, and called the power cut, executed by citizens, a “direct act of terrorism”.

The police contributed to this scandal by declining citizens‘ request to enter the Fair to check for illegal activities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs even stated that “apart from attacks on the police and damage to the property of the Fair in Novi Sad”, there were no serious incidents during the elections.

And, maybe to avoid the activities they deemed “incidents”, police officers later detained several activists who were traveling to Novi Sad from Belgrade and handed them over to the Serbian Security Intelligence Agency (BIA) for an informative interview that lasted three hours. Ivan Bjelic, one of the detainees, a “security-indicative” person in the eyes of the BIA, informed the public about this through social networks.

If you ask the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the only incidents were the citizens’ attempts to prove illegal actions

At the time the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued the above-mentioned statement it was already known that a similar SNS call center had been discovered in Belgrade, in the sports center “Banjica”, and that there had indeed been incidents there as well. The “Kreni-promeni” movement stated that in Banjica “private data of citizens, duplicate voter lists were observed, and that an illegal use of public space is taking place”, as reported by the NIN magazine. “Those present refused to clarify what kind of activity were they participating in at SC ‘Banjica’ and what they rented the premises for,” added “Kreni-promeni”.

The Progressives followed a similar script as in Novi Sad: here, too, a person appeared with a lease agreement, the validity of which is contested by the opposition representatives, and the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade, in cooperation with the MUP, announced that “so far, in SC ‘Banjica’ there is no evidence of the criminal acts which some participants in the election process claimed were ongoing”.

An owner of a notorious tabloid TV Informer, Dragan J. Vučićević, came to the defend the call center. N1 reported that Vučićević shouted at MP Đorđe Pavićević from the Green-Left Front (ZLF), and the head of the Green-Left Front parliamentary club Radomir Lazović stated that he received death threats during the attempt to prevent the call center from operating.

A pizzeria in Belgrade turned into a bunker for double lists

An incident caused by duplicate voter lists also occurred in Dorćol neighbourhood in Belgrade, where citizens and representatives of the opposition discovered an SNS call center in a pizzeria. The videos show how one of the young women who were gathered there attacked a Green-Left Front activist, strangling her with a T-shirt, after the activist addressed her with the words “Shameful”. The owner of the pizzeria also considered it legitimate to physically “defend” himself against the opposition representatives, hitting Lazović.

As reported by Nova.rs, the owner of the pizzeria Sovtić at one point says: “Do you know what I live for? I live to f**k such faggots as you are? That’s my reason to live. I’m holding Dorćol!”. Those who follow social networks may also worry about the number of comments that justify these and such statements and behavior.

On Sunday, June 2, voting was held in close to 90 cities and municipalities (including urban municipalities). Already at 11 a.m. on June 2, CRTA found over 20 irregularities in the elections in Belgrade, Niš and Novi Sad, and the voting continued in that spirit. The Progressives won a convincing victory in the large majority of place, with the exception of Nis and Čačak.



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