Milosevic opponents won't back down, despite shooting
Peaceful protests turn bloody for first time
December 24, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT)
In this story:
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Hours after a supporter of
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic shot and wounded an
anti-government protester, an opposition leader said
Milosevic had squandered his chance to negotiate an end to
"From today, not any chance of dialogue with him. He must
resign," said Vuk Draskovic, a Together coalition leader.
Milosevic supporters, some of them bused into Belgrade from
the countryside, fired shots at opponents Tuesday during
clashes on city streets.
Some demonstrators beat each other with sticks and metal
pipes. It was the first bloodshed since rallies began 35
days ago to protest Milosevic's decision to annul local
elections won by the opposition.
(988K/22 sec. QuickTime movie)
In addition to the man hit by gunfire, two people were
stabbed and several others were wounded.
Before the shooting, a man emerged from a crowd of government
supporters, pulled a gun and fired into a crowd of opposition
demonstrators, hitting the man in the head, CNN's Peter
Arnett reported live from Belgrade. (199K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound, report from CNN's Peter Arnett)
Doctors said the head wound was not life-threatening, and
witnesses said police detained the gunman.
According to journalists in Belgrade, Milosevic's opponents
produced a turnout of almost 200,000 people, more than twice
the number who rallied in support of the president.
At first, no police were in sight, apparently allowing
protesters from both sides to "fight it out," Arnett said.
But riot police eventually appeared, firing tear gas and
swinging batons to push back government supporters and
U.S. officials said Milosevic and his government would be
held responsible for any "violent actions" by their backers.
"The Serbian authorities have flagrantly and provocatively
chosen to heighten tensions by bringing thousands of people
into Belgrade to confront the peaceful demonstrations by the
opposition," Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said in
Hundreds of buses carrying Milosevic supporters -- mostly
blue-collar workers and elderly people -- arrived in Belgrade
earlier Tuesday. Some workers said they were forced to board
the buses under threat of dismissal.
"I had no choice," a worker from the Kosovo province town of
Prizren said, identifying himself only as Ljuba. "We were
told either we board the buses or we lose our jobs."
The pro-Milosevic rally was planned for the same time and
place as the daily opposition rallies.
Clashes between supporters and opponents of Milosevic would
give Serbia's president an excuse to ban all demonstrations
and use force against his opponents, whose protests so far
have been peaceful.
In his first public appearance since the crisis began,
Milosevic warned: "No one will be allowed to destabilize
Opposition leaders said they were considering calling off
their demonstrations, after learning that many of the
government supporters were carrying arms. Yet late Tuesday,
Arnett reported that the opposition, now fully aware of the
danger, planned to return to the streets Wednesday morning.
Correspondents Peter Arnett and Steve Harrigan in Belgrade
and Reuters contributed to this report.
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