Croat capital stages new anti-government protest

ZAGREB — Several hundred anti-government protesters, mostly young people, marched without incident through the Croatian capital on Monday demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor’s cabinet.

The protest, organised on Facebook and the third of its kind in less than a week, was held in downtown Zagreb two days after violent clashes between demonstrators and police left dozens injured.

The organisers, led by Ivan Pernar, a 25-year-old medical technician, said their mission was to overthrow Kosor’s government.

“Your time is up. I call you (Kosor) to step down and call (early) elections,” Pernar said before some 200 protesters gathered in Cvjetni Trg square in central Zagreb.

“Thieves! Thieves!,” “We Want Elections,” “Come out on Streets” and “Jadranka Leave” they chanted.

The protesters tried to march towards the government building along with several hundred others who joined them, but anti-riot police blocked the march.

The authorities have long banned gatherings near the government seat.

The protesters, who briefly blocked traffic, were also prevented by the police from approaching the seat of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

They blame the conservative government for deepening hardships and mismanaging the economy.

“I’m outraged with the situation in my country which is constantly being robbed by corrupted politicians,” Vjeran Boric, a 29-year-old unemployed technician, told AFP. “We are actually protesting against real mafia.”

Organisers said a new protest was to be held on Wednesday.

The protesters carried banners reading “We Are Not Hooligans” and “Peaceful Protest, Path to Freedom.”

On Saturday, 50 people including 32 police officers were injured when security forces barred several hundred people, among them football fans, from marching towards the government building.

Some 65 people were detained including an AFP photographer.

Riot police used batons and pepper spray to disperse protesters who hurled flaming torches, stones, bricks and bottles at them.

At the same time about 15,000 people protested separately at Zagreb’s main square to support complaints by veterans of the 1991-1995 independence war that the government was not protecting them from war crimes prosecutions.

Police said the protesters who clashed with police were not part of the veterans’ rally.

Kosor took over the helm of the government in 2009 when her predecessor Ivo Sanader, currently detained on suspicion of corruption and abuse of power, suddenly stepped down.

Croatia, which aspires to join the European Union, was hard hit by the global economic crisis and has seen negative growth for the past two years.

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