POLICE USED BRUTAL FORCE TO DISPERSE THE PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS IN BELGRADE ON FEBRUARY 2nd/3rd, 1997 (source: Radio B92)
Sunday evening saw the most violent use of force against the peaceful demonstrators in Belgrade so far. Huge groups of protesters from all parts of Belgrade began their marches towards the city centre at 7:30 PM in order to attend the rally of the Zajedno opposition coalition in Republic Square. Several thousands of protesters, led by Vuk Draskovic, walked towards city centre from the borough of New Belgrade. Riot police cordons stopped them at the bridge across the river Sava. Vuk Draskovic unsuccessfully tried to talk police commander into letting the protesters cross the bridge, so the crowd was forced to stay at the beggining of the bridge for hours. Police commander told Mr. Draskovic that the crowd must withdraw or the police would "act according to the law." Draskovic also tried to persuade the protesters to leave the bridge and leave him stand there alone, but the crowd refused.
Meanwhile, another several thousands of protesters, led by Zoran Djindjic, arrived in Republic Square. Having heard what was happening on the bridge across the river Sava, crowd immediately set off towards the bridge. In a street leading directly to the bridge, they were also stopped by a riot police cordon.
Around 11:40 PM, when people started to withdraw from Brankova street, police intervened on the both sides of the bridge, using water cannons, tear gass and truncheons. Crowds of people were dispersed, many of them severely injured. Police then went on a free chase after small groups of protesters in the city centre. Radio B92 reported that 4 police officers entered the building of the School of Philosophy, where a number of demonstrators had taken refuge. The police injured some of the student medical staff and security people there.
Several hundred people, including several university lecturers and a Montenegrin MP, were beaten or arrested by police with "extreme brutality" after a peaceful civil protest had been crushed on Brankov bridge, according to opposition coalition Zajedno. The Democratic party, a coalition member, intercepted radio instructions to the police at 1am on Monday, ordering them to arrest any young people wearing sneakers or with protest badges and whistles. The coalition also claims that doctors were already on standby on Sunday evening, so the violence was planned.
The Zajedno leaders phoned Radio B92 from different parts of the city where they had taken shelter in. Vuk Draskovic claimed that he had been shot at. Vesna Pesic said she had been beaten by the police. Zoran Djindjic said that the opposition was not discouraged by the violence of the police and that there was no reason for the opposition to stop their street protests. Reporters of Radio B92 talked to several people who had been severely injured and witnessed that the riot police were present in unprecedented numbers in the streets of Belgrade. The Zajedno coalition announced a protest rally "Against Violence" for Monday at 3 p.m.