Progressive sections and various rights groups in Serbia condemned the attack on peaceful demonstrators in the city of Novi Sad who were protesting a controversial urban development plan. On July 28, several environmental groups and people’s action committees, including the Ecological Front Novi Sad, Organization for the Conservation of Nature and Animals (OSNA), Youth Student Action – Novi Sad, and Futoška Citizens’ Association, organized a demonstration called ‘Rebellion Against Mafia’ in downtown Novi Sad. The protesters demanded the arrest and prosecution of private security personnel who had perpetrated attacks on a peaceful demonstration in the city in front of the Vojvodina Assembly earlier this month. The Party of the Radical Left (PRL) also condemned the attack on democratic protests by city dwellers.
According to Masina, environmental groups and city residents have objected to proposals in the pro-corporate General Urban Plan (GUP) formulated by the city authorities. Activist groups including the Ecological Front Novi Sad had submitted a petition, endorsed by more than 12,000 people, raising concerns over the GUP. However, on July 21, the majority of councilors in the city assembly of Novi Sad voted to approve the GUP.
Meanwhile, a demonstration organized by activist groups in the city in front of the assembly of the Serbian autonomous province of Vojvodina was repressed with the help of private security agencies, where protesters were manhandled and beaten. The incident sparked widespread outrage among progressive sections in the country. Various groups accused the city administration of repressing the people’s protest using hired goons, on behalf of private investors.
Following the protests on July 28, Miran Pogacar from the Ecological Front of Novi Sad told Masina that “Novi Sad has shown for the first time that there are those who are ready to raise their voice and to stand up for those who have experienced violence, as well as in the defense of their city, in this case from the damaging General Urban Plan.”
On July 22, the PRL said in a statement that “we condemn attacks by private security on citizens who gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the General Urban Plan (GUP) for Novi Sad. Mayor Miloš Vučević tried to prevent the public with barricades, private security and cordon, and this resulted in scenes of beating people by private security officers.”
“The GUP that was adopted by a majority of votes yesterday was designed to serve for the purpose of large domestic and foreign capital, as the previous one which was valid until today’s adoption. All city authorities in the past three decades have made faulty decisions regarding public areas that were sold or conceded to private investors by regulations. The GUP is violating the public interest in order to enrich people close to the government,” added the PRL.
The Novi Sad city administration courted criticisms earlier as well. On July 11, the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NKPJ) and the Alliance of Communist Youth Yugoslavia (SKOJ) protested the decision of the city authorities to build a monument to the “innocent victims of World War II. According to the protesters, the city administration’s list of ‘innocent victims’ mainly include war criminals, nazis and the fascists from Ustasha.”