Montenegro police used teargas against protesters demanding the release of Serbian Orthodox Church priests detained for violating Covid-19 restrictions. Demonstrators claim the arrests were part of a wider crackdown on the Church.
The people’s anger was caused by the arrest of Serbian Orthodox Church Bishop Joanikije and several priests who led a religious procession amid a ban on public gatherings in the town of Niksic on Tuesday. The protests broke out late on Wednesday in several cities in the small Balkan state, which split from Serbia in 2006.
Videos from the protests captured violent scenes, showing a group of around a dozen policemen in full riot gear attacking a single demonstrator with batons and the crowd fleeing from the tear gas. Law enforcement also used stun grenades against the demonstrators, In4s website reported.
Civil unrest in #Montenegro. State about to nationalize up to 650 churches! Yesterday we saw clashes on the streets after the arrest of Bishop Joanikije of Budva-Niksic and ten priests. People’s resistance is increasing and we are seeing the end of the dictatorship. #revolutionpic.twitter.com/2dbZVP7Fuf
— Stefan Bošnjak 🇪🇺 (@stefanbosnjak) May 14, 2020
Local media said that there were dozens of injured among the ranks of the protesters, including a seven-year-old child, who was reportedly injured as the police dispersed the crowd in Pljevlja.
“The injustice has exceeded every measure,” Gojko Perovic, the rector of the Cetinje school of theology, stated as he blamed the Montenegrin authorities for excessive use of force. “We call on them to stop their violent behavior toward peaceful and nonviolent protests,” he said in a statement.
Keep your eyes on #Montenegro. There have been several clashes between the country’s Serbian minority and the police. Some are saying that as the country slips into a debt crisis, the government is trying to refocus anger toward the Serbs. This could get nasty quickly. pic.twitter.com/yaZ6Ah2v1i
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) May 14, 2020
The police insisted that it acted “professionally” and was able to swiftly restore order. Around 60 people were detained after the officers were “brutally attacked for no reason,” the statement read.