Serbia’s populist leader has denounced opposition plans to block a key bridge and motorway in Belgrade to press their demands in the wake of mass shootings in the Balkan country that left 17 people dead, including many children.
President Aleksandar Vucic said that the planned opposition protest later on Friday amounted to “violence in politics” and “harassment” of citizens.
However, Mr Vucic said, police would not intervene to prevent it “unless people’s lives are in danger”.
“What gives them the right to block other people’s normal lives?” asked Mr Vucic, adding that the opposition were “abusing the tragedy” following the shootings that deeply rattled the nation and triggered calls for change.
The rally on Friday comes a week after thousands marched in Belgrade.
They were demanding the resignations of government ministers and the withdrawal of broadcast licences for two private TV stations which are close to the state and promote violence.
They often host convicted war criminals and crime figures on their programs.
Protests with the same demands have been held in the past week in various cities and towns in Serbia.
Opposition officials said the bridge blockade in Belgrade on Friday evening would last for two hours.
The two shootings happened in just two days, leaving 17 people dead and 21 wounded.
Last Wednesday, a 13-year-old boy used his father’s gun to open fire at his school in central Belgrade, while a day later a 20-year-old randomly fired at people in a rural area south of Belgrade.
Mr Vucic has denied this. He has called his own rally for May 26 in Belgrade that he said would be the “biggest ever”.
“We do not organise spontaneous rallies in order to play with people’s emotions,” Mr Vucic insisted. “Ours will be a rally of unity, when we will announce important political decisions.”
Mr Vucic also told reporters that citizens had handed in more than 9,000 weapons since police announced a one-month amnesty for people to surrender unregistered guns and ammunition or face possible prison sentences after that period.
Serbia is estimated to be among the top countries in Europe when it comes to the number of guns per capita, many of them left over from the wars in the 1990s.
Other anti-gun measures after the shootings include a ban on new gun licences, stricter controls on gun owners and shooting ranges, and tougher punishments for the illegal possession of weapons.