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Serbian Opposition Forces Vow New Antigovernment Protests

Antigovernment protesters mass on the streets of the Serbian capital of Belgrade on December 15.
Antigovernment protesters mass on the streets of the Serbian capital of Belgrade on December 15.

Opposition leaders in Serbia have vowed to hit the streets again in January after tens of thousands of people rallied in the capital of Belgrade to protest the rule of President Aleksandar Vucic and his government.

The crowd, some blowing whistles and holding placards, on December 15 marched in the Belgrade city center, gathering outside Vucic’s presidential offices and demanding his resignation before moving on to headquarters of state broadcaster RTS.

Thousands also rallied a week ago, protesting after an opposition party leader was beaten. The protesters have dubbed the demonstrations Stop the Bloody Shirts.

WATCH: Thousands joined an antigovernment march in Belgrade on the evening of December 8.

Serbian Opposition Stages Antigovernment Rally
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Organizers said new rallies are planned for January 16, the anniversary of the death of opposition Kosovar Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, whose killing stirred tension and sent shock waves through both countries.

He was shot dead by unknown attackers on January 16, 2017, outside his SDP Civic Initiative party headquarters in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica.

"We won't be stopped or silenced," said Serbian Left party leader Borko Stefanovic, who was injured in last month's attack in the southern Serbian town of Krusevac when men wearing black shirts struck him with a metal pole. Vucic condemned the attack; however, his opponents continue to hold him responsible.

Former Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas were among opposition figures to lead the protest crowds on December 15 despite a heavy snow that covered the streets of Belgrade

Protesters carried placards reading "For how long will Serbia endure evil?" and "They lie, steal...I'm so angry." Many were chanting "Vucic -- thief!"

Vucic's opponents have blamed the violence on what they describe as an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that has emerged as a result of the president's populist ruling coalition.

Vucic is a former nationalist who now says he wants Serbia to reform and join the European Union.

But critics say Vucic has restricted democratic and media freedoms in the Balkan country, which he denies.

After the protests a week ago, Vucic ruled out meeting opposition demands for new elections, "even if there were 5 million people in the street." Many in the crowds on December 15 wore badges with "1 in 5 million" on them.

In a recent report on Serbia, the European Parliament said it "strongly" encouraged Serbia's leaders to "improve the situation regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the media."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Danas
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