Serbia shootings: deadly attack rocks country

  • Guy De Launie
  • BBC News, Belgrade

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People pay tribute to victims since Wednesday

The scent of burning wax wafts through the tree-lined slopes of Svetozar Markovic Street in central Belgrade’s Vlakar district. Eventually, the source of the scent becomes visible. Votive candles placed against a wall of white flowers.

The lit tribute stretches around Vladislav Ribnicar Primary School and nearby high school.

Three girls are sitting on the sidewalk and quietly hugging each other. A little further down the road, her father is arranging flowers and quietly talking to her three daughters. There are dozens of people on site, a steady stream of arrivals and departures, but no commotion, only silence.

It was a contrast to our previous visits to Vladislav Ribnikar. In 2013, I filmed a traditional Slava festival at a school. This was a joyous occasion to honor Saint Sava through song, dance and drama.

There is also a feeling of mourning for Serbia, as people understood it. In this country, schools were safe and gun crime was rare. Now, two mass shootings have shaken Serbs’ long-held beliefs about society.

Graphic designer Ana Djordjevic said, “Part of the shock is that no one believed it would happen here. She has a 14-year-old son and a niece who is a student at Vladislav Ribnicar.

“My son told me he no longer felt safe at school and on the street and couldn’t sleep. We need to give them time and space to process and heal – and Even the teachers.”

For most Serbs, business as usual was out of the question. “Belgrade never sleeps” is usually a saying that proudly boasts of the city’s party tendencies. The mood is decidedly calmer this weekend.

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Waiter Voja Cekic says people in Belgrade are terrified by recent shootings

Voya Čekic, a waiter at a popular bar and restaurant in Belgrade’s Old Town, said: “You can feel the strange atmosphere. People are sitting without music or laughter. We had very little business,” he said. .

Voja then reveals she has a gun at home. This is his legally licensed Beretta pistol that his grandfather carried when he fought partisans in World War II.

“I keep it as a keepsake for my grandfather,” he says. “Maybe it will be deactivated, so just keep it as a souvenir. But many people in Serbia have illegal guns.”

The question of whether Serbia has a gun problem has become a hot topic following the shootings. A 2018 study by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey suggested that Serbia had the third highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, after Yemen and the United States.

Boyan Erek, deputy director of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, described the study’s figure of 39 guns per 100 inhabitants as “overestimated.” I believe that the government’s proposal for all “disarmament” will be well received, at least at first.

“People are still in shock and hope the government will do something. You will feel angry when you don’t.”

Some official reactions to the shooting have sparked anxiety, such as Education Minister Blanco Luzic identifying “Western values” as the root cause. Ambition seems incompatible.

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Zvezdana Kovac is the Secretary General of the European Movement in Serbia.

“The denunciation of Western values ​​was very shocking,” says Zvezdana Kovac, secretary-general of the European Movement for EU membership in Serbia.

“If you honestly want to join the EU, you can’t say such words,” she says.

Serbian President Alexander Vucic reacted swiftly to the shooting incident. Not only does he propose a crackdown on weapons, but he also proposes police officers in every school and lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12.

But the opposition is unimpressed. They will march through Belgrade on Monday to protest what they see as the government attempting to take repressive measures while people are still stunned by gunfire.

“We don’t need more police in schools,” says Doblica Veselinovich of the green left movement Ne Davimo Belgrade.

“We need more psychologists, more education, and honest conversations with ourselves about our relationship to the past and our place in the world. Without it, we would be stuck.” -We have 30 years of violent history and war, but we haven’t dealt with it.”

For now it’s enough to process the events of the last few days. Serbia today feels like a completely different place than it did a week ago.

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Watch: Belgrade shooting suspect arrested by police

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