Scores of demonstrators were injured in a clash with police that broke out outside the National Assembly here over the decision to re-impose a weekend curfew because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Serbia and across the western Balkans.

The protests began peacefully on Tuesday evening, which included students and families. But soon after the renewed lockdown measures were announced, the demonstrators broke into the Assembly, prompting police to intervene, the BBC reported. Clashes erupted and police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Far-Right Blamed

Serbia Protest
Serbia Protest Youtube Screengrab

Far-right nationalists have been blamed for stirring up the unrest and storming the Assembly building. Serbian media said they included an MP who has pushed anti-vaccine and anti-5G conspiracy theories.

On Tuesday, Serbia saw its deadliest day so far in the pandemic. President Vucic announced in a televised address that there had been 13 deaths and 120 people were on ventilators, with 4,000 people being treated in hospital. The situation was most alarming in Belgrade, he said, before imposing a ban on gatherings of more than five people from Wednesday, with a curfew in force from Friday until Monday morning.

'Don't Let Belgrade Drown'

The protests against the re-imposed curfew began with a mixture of locals, including students and members of the "Don't let Belgrade drown" citizen movement, which described the gathering as spontaneous. Many of them observed social distancing although not everyone wore masks. Crowds could be heard chanting "Serbia has risen".

Some protesters expressed anger at the government's rapid removal of restrictions to allow last month's Parliamentary election to go ahead. Tens of thousands attended football matches and nightclubs reopened, signaling that normal life had resumed. The SNS gained the massive majority they wanted, but the COVID-19 infection rate has been rising ever since.