As a result of two gun attacks that left 17 dead, tens of thousands of people blocked a highway in Belgrade on Friday. The demonstrators demanded an end to the glorification of violence in the media and the resignation of high-ranking politicians, including the interior minister and the intelligence chief. It was the second major anti-violence rally this week, after two deadly attacks rocked the Balkan country in just 48 hours.
The protest was called by several opposition parties from both the left and the right. "I felt the need to come here – because of my children and because I want to live in a Serbia free of violence," 48-year-old Zdravko Jankovic told AFP.
The organisers demanded that TV stations that broadcast violent content have their licences revoked, as well as a ban on pro-government newspapers that they say are stirring up tensions among the population. In a special session of parliament, the government's response to gun violence should also be discussed, they demanded.
Representatives of President Aleksandar Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party condemned the protests as a "politicization" of the bloody acts, the aim of which was to attack Vucic. The president himself had announced a large-scale "disarmament campaign" after the deadly attacks.
In the first of the two gun attacks, a student in a Belgrade school shot eight children and a security guard with one of his father's guns. Less than 48 hours later, a 21-year-old killed eight people in several villages near Belgrade. Education Minister Branko Ruzic resigned on Sunday.
According to government figures, more than 6,8 firearms are registered in the country of 760.000 million inhabitants. According to the Small Arms Survey (SAS) research project, 39 percent of the population owns a gun – in no other European country is the proportion so high.