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Shootings in Serbia | Thousands demonstrate against violence

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(Belgrade) Thousands of people marched Monday evening in Belgrade to demand the resignations of political leaders and against the promotion of violence in the media, a few days after two shootings which left 17 dead, including in a school.

The demonstrators gathered in front of the Parliament building in central Belgrade at the call of several right and left opposition parties behind the slogan “Serbia against violence”.

“We are here because we can’t wait any longer. We’ve waited too long, we’ve been silent for too long, we’ve turned our heads too long,” Marina Vidojevic, a Serbian elementary school teacher, told the crowd.

“We want safe schools, streets, villages and cities for all children,” she added, before the protesters left in the direction of the seat of government.

In their call for demonstrations, broadcast by the left-wing “Ne Da(vi)mo Beograd” (“Let’s not drown Belgrade”) party, opposition parties demand “an immediate halt to the promotion of violence in the media and in the public space […] and the resignation “in particular of the Minister of the Interior and the head of the intelligence services, accused of inaction.

The departure of Education Minister Branko Ruzic was initially among the demands, but the latter resigned on Sunday, offering his condolences to the families of the victims of a “cataclysmic tragedy”.

The opposition also calls for the removal of reality TV programs that “promote violence, immorality and aggressiveness” and the closure of pro-government newspapers which they accuse of disseminating “false information” in order to harm the political opponents.

Several leaders of President Aleksandar Vucic’s Conservative Party (SNS) have accused the opposition of “politicizing” the two killings to attack the head of state and those in power.

Serbia has been shocked by two shootings last week in less than 48 hours.

In the first, which is unprecedented in the Balkan country, a 13-year-old schoolboy opened fire on Wednesday at a school in central Belgrade, killing eight classmates and a security guard. Six other students and a teacher were injured.

On Thursday, a 21-year-old young man killed eight people with an automatic rifle and injured 14 in two villages about 60 km south of Belgrade.

After his shootings, the Serbian president promised to launch a large-scale disarmament plan. According to the Small Arms Survey (SAS) research project, 39% of people in Serbia own a firearm, the highest rate in Europe.