21st anniversary of March 9 protest

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the first mass protest against Slobodan Milošević's regime.

Source: Tanjug

The date also marks the beginning of the non-institutional political struggle of the opposition which led to the deposition of the government in 2000 and the beginning of consolidation of the democratic system in Serbia.

The March 9 protest in Belgrade was organized and headed by the strongest opposition party at the time, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) with Vuk Drašković as its leader, which advocated a change in the system, democratization and national recovery of the country.

The conflict started at Republic Square and spread to several streets in downtown Belgrade. Two people were killed in the clashes, protester Branimir Milinović, 18, and police officer Nedeljko Kosović, 54.

A total of 114 individuals were injured in the clashes between the police and protesters, 58 of them police officers and 86 citizens. During the protest, the police arrested 158 people.

The protesters' main demand referred to the deposition of the then director general of Radio Television of Serbia Dušan Mitević and four editors because of the offensive comments they voiced against the opposition.

The protests were banned and the police blocked the access roads around Belgrade early in the morning in order to interrupt opposition's supporters from the interior on their way to the capital.

Nevertheless, around 100.000 citizens gathered in downtown Belgrade and the police launched an action at noon in order to break up protesters' lines in Francuska Street and at the plateau in front of the Faculty of Philosophy.

Protests by several thousand students and other citizens continued until March 14, when Drašković and all others who had been arrested were released and the Serbian parliament accepted the resignations by RTS director and interior minister Radmilo Bogdanović.

That night tanks rolled out onto the streets of Belgrade for the first time since World War II. The decision to do that was made by the Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


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