Protests took place outside the National Assembly in the Serbian capitol of Belgrade on Tuesday and Wednesday in response to a possible weekend curfew to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The protests largely began peaceful, until some protesters broke into the building and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Far-right nationalists have been blamed for inciting violence.
The protests came after Serbia saw its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 13 deaths and 299 cases reported Tuesday.
On Thursday, authorities announced a ban on gatherings of 10 people or more in Belgrade.
On Tuesday evening, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced the country would implement stricter lockdown measures due to a recent coronavirus spike, which would include imposing bans on large gatherings and placing a weekend curfew on Belgrade.
Following this statement, several thousand anti-lockdown protesters gathered in front of the National Assembly building in the capitol's central square, Reuters reported.
The protest started peacefully, but around 10 p.m., a small group of people broke past the police and entered the parliament building.
People in the crowd could be heard chanting "Serbia has risen" and calling for Vucic's resignation.
In response, police used tear gas to break up the demonstration, and protesters set police vehicles on fire and threw rocks.
A group of far-right nationalists have been blamed for inciting the unrest and storming the assembly building. Among them was an MP who has spread conspiracy theories about vaccines and-5G, BBC News reported.
The protests began as Serbia just recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 13 new deaths and 299 new cases on Tuesday.
So far, the country of 7 million has reported more than 17,000 coronavirus infections and at least 352 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. With the most recent surge, epidemiologists and doctors are warning that hospitals are running at full capacity.
Serbia locked down in early March, but became one of the first countries to reopen in late May. Critics have accused Vucic of reopening too soon and blame the government on the recent spike of cases.
Overwhelming evidence suggests that lockdown orders help contain the virus, but some opposers believe Vucic is using them as a way to strengthen his autocratic rule, Reuters reported.
On Wednesday, another wave of protests continued, and Vucic condemned the violence. That evening, he turned back on his previous statement by saying that a curfew in Belgrade would probably not be imposed.
The new ban effectively outlaws further protest movements from taking hold, but hundreds of demonstrators staged a sit-down demonstration in front of the parliament building anyways.
At least 153 people have been detained, and dozens of protesters and police were reported injured from the protests, according to the Associated Press.
Read the original article on Insider