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July 8, 2020, Belgrade, Serbia: Protests against the Government’s COVID-19 Lockdown Measures

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

After Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced lockdown measures to be put into place for his country to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of protesters marched on the parliament building, protests which became violent later that night and the next day. As the protests continued into their second day, Vučić backtracked and announced that he was softening the lockdown measure planned for the following weekend.

Several protesters were injured as clashes erupted between groups of protesters and the police, the latter supported by armored vehicles and officers on horseback who pushed demonstrators back and kept the crowds from re-entering the plaza in front of the parliament building. Clashes in Novi Sad, a town in northern Serbia, were also reported.

Serbia had an early and one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe; and then went overnight to a nearly complete reopening which was all hailed as a great success just in time for Vučić to be re-elected. He was widely accused of playing politics with COVID-19 to engineer his re-election. The example of Serbia and its handling of COVID-19 serves as a warning to those who would play politics with this virus, that such a policy can come back and bite the politicians in question. The example of Serbia also serves as a cautionary tale as to the risks involved when politicians attempt to institute hard lockdowns against the wishes of broad sectors - if not an absolute majority - of civil society.