Pristina, Yugoslavia; 1 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Serb riot police in the largely Albanian province of Kosovo used violence today to disperse a peaceful protest of thousands of ethnic Albanian students in the capital, Pristina.
News reports say that several hundred Serb police in full riot gear waded into a crowd of 20,000 protesters this morning, beating dozens with batons and firing tear gas into the crowd. Police arrested several leaders of the protest, including the rector of an underground Albanian-language university.
Students took to the streets to demand the right to Albanian-language education at the main Pristina University, where classes are now taught only in Serb. Albanians outnumber Serbs in Kosovo by more than nine to one.
The demonstration was one of the largest protests in Kosovo since Serbia stripped the province of its autonomy in 1989. Protests were also scheduled in six other cities but there were no confirmed reports of violence.
Leaders of ethnic Albanian students have vowed to press ahead with their protests.