Montenegro: Violence erupts at controversial protests

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Photo: vijesti.me

More than 5.000 protesters gathered on Saturday in Podgorica, capital of Montenegro, clashing with the police on anti-government protests organized by opposition coalition movement Democratic front (DF)

Clashes started when MP’s of DF asked the police to drop down their shields and let them enter the Parliament building. They started coming closer to the building, followed by thousands of protesters. When protesters got closer, they tried to enter the building and started throwing firecrackers, torches and stones at police, which has responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

During the clashes, 24 protesters and 15 police officers have been injured, among injured is also one journalist of a local news page.

Government released video of the fighting Montenegran Minister of Interior Raško Konjević said that protesters also used Molotov cocktails. Earlier, protesters stoned the Albanian Embassy in Podgorica. Also, Television Pink headquarters have been attacked again by protesters, Radiotelevision of Montenegro reports. Same TV station was targeted just a few days ago.

 

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After protests were dispersed, minor clashes erupted around the city up until midnight. Protesters, which came from several cities across Montenegro, carried flags of Montenegro, Serbia, DF and Serbian Radical Party whose leader Vojislav Šešelj is a suspected war criminal. He was on trial by the International Court for Former Yugoslavia, but has since been released on medical grounds, only for ICTY to later demand his return to custody and continuation of the trial.

radio sarajevo

Protesters with flag of Serbian Radical Party

DF is asking for a resignation of the government, the forming of a transitional government and new elections. Andrija Mandić, one of the leaders of coalition Democratic Front and president of the New Serb Democracy (the strongest party in coalition) has been arrested during the protests. Also, one of the DF officials Slaven Radulović has been arrested. It is yet unknown how many protesters have been arrested,  but police said earlier that on the border of Montenegro and Serbia they have stopped a number of individuals comming for Serbia that planned to participate in demonstrations. Protesters are also strongly against Montenegro joining NATO and are pro-Russian and pro-Serbian. Important to note is that these protests are happening only two months before NATO’s decision on whether to accept Montenegro as a full member.

Criticism of the protests Protests in Montenegro have been ongoing for a month, but have been one of the few without support by the regional public and media. Critics point out that, although Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Đukanović has been in a ruling seat for far too long (for around two decades), the opposition isn’t providing an honest alternative.

The main point of criticism, as pointed out by a regionally famous Montenegran anti-fascist writer Andrej Nikolaidis, has been that opposition leader Andrija Mandić is a voivoda (duke) of a far-right Serbian Chetnik movement, often being labeled as fascist or clero-fascist. “Leader of these protests is a Chetnik duke, that is why part of the opposition isn’t participating. That kind of man can’t contribute to the democratization of Montenegro. (at the beginning) There were Chetnik symbols on those protests, but then they realized that those symbols aren’t doing them any good, so they found some three Bosnians which brought Bosnian flag, but then Chetniks tore it up. Representatives of Bosniak minority asked is it possible that someone would tear Bosnian flag in Montenegro in 2015. That isn’t funny, it’s clear that the intentions of these protests are destructive”, said Nikolaidis. “From the beginning organizers wanted violence, because they knew that they can’t bring 10,000 or 50,000 people on the street, they simply don’t have that kind of support. If they did, then we could speak about strong democratic pressure and will of the people”, he added. Nikolaidis and a number of other writers and political analysts have also questioned the role of Russia in these protests. Other criticism includes questioning of the political argument, considering current rivalry between West and Russia, whether Montenegro should pursue western (EU and NATO) path or chose to side with Russia.

About Author

Agan Uzunović is a journalist from Bosnia and Herzegovina writing for Revolution News and Bosnian media. Follow him on Twitter @AganU8.