Anti-Milosevic protesters take to streets despite threats
December 2, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EST (1635 GMT)
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Ten of thousands of
demonstrators braved heavy snow and threats of police action
Monday to defy government orders and protest against Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic.
In front of government buildings, the crowd of about 60,000
people chanted, "Let's go, all-out attack! Red bandits!
Thieves!" The protesters are calling for Milosevic to resign
and to reinstate opposition election wins that were annulled
by courts two weeks ago.
Earlier, more than 10,000 students, some carrying flowers,
marched in downtown Belgrade and announced plans for a larger
demonstration later in the day.
There was little visible police presence at the protests, but
witnesses told The Associated Press that busloads of police
had been deployed around the city.
Past demonstrations have been tolerated by the government,
but authorities broke their silence Sunday when Speaker of
the Serbian Parliament Dragan Tomic said the protest was a
pro-fascist conspiracy and compared the unrest to Hitler's
rise to power.
(1.2M/27 sec. QuickTime movie: Brent Sadler reports from Belgrade)
In efforts to curb the protests, the government has banned
all unauthorized demonstrations, and local courts recently
sentenced five local opposition leaders to unspecified prison
terms for throwing eggs.
Opposition leaders urged supporters to continue
non-violent protests despite the threat of police action. "If
Belgrade shows that it is not afraid, the victory will be
ours," Vuk Draskovic told the independent Index radio
station. "We are half a step away from our victory."
State-run media has left the demonstrations largely
unreported, depicting the protests as isolated cases of
rock-throwing by terrorists.
They have shown scenes of violence while ignoring the mostly
peaceful nature of the marches and downplaying their size and
scale. In recent reports, the media claimed gunshots were
fired at Kraljevco City Hall in central Serbia.
Angry protesters responded by calling Belgrade the "lie
capital" of Europe and denouncing government claims that the
protests are small.
Meanwhile, the southern town of Nis, once a bastion of ruling
party Socialism, has been holding well-attended protests.
The people of Nis embraced the opposition during the
elections and are angry that their choices were annulled.
Anti-government supporters in Nis are accusing the government
of stealing their votes. Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic, at
a Nis rally, told Index radio that the demonstrations would
spread "to another six or seven towns. The network of protest
and civil disobedience is taking hold."
The protesters have the Serbian Orthodox Church's support and
hope to extend their anti-government movement to other towns.
But the opposition has not received the crucial support of
Serbia's huge labor unions.
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