Friday, February 22, 2008

Riots In Belgrade

Yesterday, a largely peaceful protest was held outside the Parliament building in central Belgrade. 250,000 people gathered, of all political persuasions, to show their opposition to the independence of Kosovo and listen to speeches from political leaders and celebrities. Unfortunately, Boris Tadic, the recently re-elected pro-European president of Serbia, was in Romania and didn't appear at the rally.

Afterwards, groups of hooligans, angry youths and, quite frankly, idiots, broke off from the main
rally and headed off in various directions around the city. The U.S. Embassy was attacked, which for some odd reason was not protected at first by the police, considering the fact I saw three bus loads of riot police guarding the Slovene embassy the day before, by an angry mob. They set fire to part of the building, and unfortunately, a body has been found. Other mobs set off for Slavija and completely destroyed the McDonald's, which was houses in a rather pretty historical building. Embassies of the UK, Belgium, Canada, Bosnia, and Turkey were also attacked and stoned.

I had set off for work around 6.30pm, just as the main rally was finis
hing and saw a lot of rather unsavoury characters, chanting 'Kill the Albanians', 'Albanians don't exist' etc., heading off around the city. My colleagues and I watched the running battles up and down Terazije from the safety of the upstairs windows, as colleagues from the photograph department ran in and out, hanging through windows, taking pictures and recovering from the effects of tear gas. I must admit, it was certainly the most exciting shift so far!

Mobs of hooligans and opportunistic people who were in the area attacked the McDonalds on Terazije (which had already been smashed up on Sunday), and smashed in the windows of United Colors of Benetton, Levis, a pharmacy, and various other stores on Terazije, Sremska ulica, Nikola Pasic Square, and the main pedestrian shopping street Knez Miheala (particularly the shops that had not placed a 'Kosovo is Serbia' sign in their windows) and looted them (some were completely empty by the time everyone was under control. Some buses and cars were set alight, traffic lights smashed and garbage containers overturned. Journalists were attacked and there were a reported 150 injuries to police and bystanders.

By the time I had finished work at 9.30pm, the rioting had died down and I was able to make why way home safely and without much concern. I did experience
a burning sensation in my eyes, a residual effect of the tear gas used probably over an hour ago.

This vandalism and rioting has been broadcast all over the world and does not present a dignified picture of Serbia and its cause. I am saddened by the mindless idiots who have probably just strengthened the stereotype of primitive, violent, dangerous Serbs. But violence that was seen in Belgrade last night has been seen all over the world in the UK, USA, France, hell, even Denmark. It's just a shame that it won't be labelled as the acts of a minority of mindless football hooligans and idiots. Svaka im cast!

Here you can see the mayhem that happened last night in Belgrade.

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3 comments:

SAJKACA said...

In Western media, all we see of the demonstration in Belgrade are these few acts of violence. Because of a few idiots, it was forgotten that a beautiful mass was celebrated, politicians and artists held some speeches and generally it was a peaceful thing. Like you say: in any other european city, it would have been violent and rioting as well, considering that Serbs are deeply offended, BG riots weren't that bad. I just think that Serbia would need good PR!

Emi226 said...

I agree , the peaceful demonstration which had been held before was largely ignored. The media reports of the riots in france went out of their way to highlight that it was a small section of people, no such attempt was made for belgrade.

markowe said...

Those two blonde looters seem to have shocked people as much as anything...

Actually, I don't agree entirely that "no attempt" was made to highlight that only a small group of people was involved in the rioting. I was following the whole thing on CNN (?!) and although they did focus largely on the riots, they also constantly emphasised that it WAS a small group of people involved and also spent a LOT of time discussing why the Serbs would feel this way about Kosovo. All in all I was quite surprised at the coverage, I thought it was quite fair.