Thousands of Serbians gather against populist leader Vucic
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Thousands in Serbia protested again Saturday against populist President Aleksandar Vucic as riot police deployed inside the country's parliament, saying they wanted to prevent the opposition from storming the building.
The protest in central Belgrade in front of the parliament building comes after months of anti-government demonstrations accusing Vucic of being autocratic and demanding that his government allow more democracy, media freedoms and free elections in the Balkan nation.
Opposition leaders said authorities sought to prevent their supporters from coming to Belgrade for the rally Saturday.
Vucic's conservative party members, meanwhile, barricaded themselves inside the Belgrade parliament building and local city councils throughout Serbia on Saturday, claiming they wanted to prevent the forceful takeover of power by "fascists and thugs."
Tensions have mounted all week as pro-government media and officials alleged that the opposition wanted to storm state institutions and take power by force. Those comments came despite the fact that the weekly anti-government protests have been largely peaceful.
Vucic, who denies accusations that he's an autocrat, said Saturday's protest "will achieve nothing" and added that any troublemakers "will be removed" from the streets.
The anti-government protests started after masked thugs beat up an opposition politician last November.
Serbian opposition leaders are now leading the anti-govt march through Belgrade, carrying a banner reading: “All is one”.Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) 13 avril 2019
It’s the first time that opposition leaders have all been at the front of the #1od5miliona demonstrations instead of protest organisers. pic.twitter.com/eRaKWmYV8z
Late Serbian hard-line leader Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power in 2000 after protesters stormed the parliament in Belgrade. Vucic was his close associate at the time.
Vucic plans to bring his supporters to Belgrade next Friday to counter the rising revolt against his rule.