Serbian Protesters Occupy State TV HQ as Discontent Escalates
Dozens of Serbian protesters in Belgrade stormed into the state-run TV outlet RTS’s headquarters on March 16, occupying it until riot police arrived. This escalation came after months of political unrest and protests advocating for the removal of Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and the liberation of media sources in the country.
After several hours, the dispatched riot police force remove and detain protestors one by one, including Bosko Obradovic, the leader of Serbia’s far-right opposition party, Dveri. Dveri’s fiery nationalism has risen to prominence during the weeks of anti-Vucic protests, riding the wave of rightist populism sweeping Europe in recent years, despite the party’s past negligible influence on Serbian politics.
Most protesters emerged from the riot police intervention unscathed; those occupying the station merely wanted to secure airtime on a RTS broadcast. Obradovic claimed to N1: “We don't want to demolish anything, we don't want to steal, we ask for one thing only - a live appearance of an organiser, not a politician or [member of parliament] - during the main news.”
The invasion of the RTS headquarters marked the culmination of three months of requests to broadcast opposition members’ opinions, repeatedly denied by Vucic’s administration.
In a Sunday press conference at the presidential palace encircled by opposition protesters, Vucic emphasized that he will not allow “tycoon bullies and fascist goons” to threaten journalists, and that all those who entered the building illegally “would be answering before a court of law.” They surrounded Vucic, preventing him from leaving the grounds, and demanded his resignation and the immediate release of those detained the previous night. He asserted, “I am not afraid,” and proceeded to downplay the legitimacy of the well-known protest leaders Obradovic and Dragan Djilas, the former Belgrade mayor.
The popular “One in Five Million” movement, formed in response to a flippant comment by Vucic, has been co-opted by the Alliance for Serbia, a collection of 20 parties from across the political spectrum which now comprises and mobilizes the bulk of anti-Vucic sentiment in Serbia.
An analysis by European Western Balkans points to Obradovic as the informal leader of this Alliance, despite the fact that his anti-EU, anti-LGBTQ platform doesn’t resonate with most Serbians. European Western Balkans further argues that if the Alliance and the anti-Vucic movement at large are successful in their calls for resignation, they hope to instigate free and fair elections with more ideologically congruent coalitions formed as a byproduct.