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Serbian students rally over anti-govt protest detentions

Published
High-school students protest in front of main police station in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, March 18, 2019. Dozens of high-school students have staged a sit-down protest demanding that the authorities release from detention a fellow-student who was jailed during weekend anti-government protests in Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Dozens of Serbian high school students on Monday staged a sit-down protest demanding the release from detention of a fellow student jailed during weekend anti-government protests in the Balkan country.

The protest came as President Aleksandar Vucic reportedly called for the release of those people who were detained on misdemeanor charges, but not those charged with more serious offenses.

The students marched Monday from their school in downtown Belgrade toward the main police station in the Serbian capital, where they sat on the ground, blowing whistles and booing.

Authorities said Monday they detained 18 people following incidents during demonstrations against Vucic on Saturday and Sunday. Protesters on Saturday burst into the state-TV building in Belgrade. More skirmishes with police took place Sunday when protesters surrounded the Serbian presidency during Vucic's news conference.

The incidents were the first during some three months of weekly rallies demanding democratic and media freedoms. Critics accuse Vucic of fostering divisions and hate speech in the country while curbing media and other freedoms.

A former extreme nationalist who now says he wants Serbia to join the European Union, Vucic has denied the allegations that he is an autocrat. He said opposition leaders want to topple him without elections.

"As I said, you can walk as much as you want, that's fine, but violence is not allowed," Vucic said. "Anyone who commits violence will be punished."

High-school students protest in front of main police station in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, March 18, 2019. Dozens of high-school students have staged a sit-down protest demanding that the authorities release from detention a fellow-student who was jailed during weekend anti-government protests in Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman sits in front of a riot police cordon after a standoff in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Supporters of the Serbian opposition clashed with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Protesters throw a traffic cone towards a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. . (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, foreground center, speaks with police officers behind a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Protesters throw a can at a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman walks in front of a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Protesters throw a traffic cone towards a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. . (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Protesters throw a traffic cone towards a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. . (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
High-school students protest in front of main police station in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, March 18, 2019. Dozens of high-school students have staged a sit-down protest demanding that the authorities release from detention a fellow-student who was jailed during weekend anti-government protests in Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
High-school students protest in front of main police station in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, March 18, 2019. Dozens of high-school students have staged a sit-down protest demanding that the authorities release from detention a fellow-student who was jailed during weekend anti-government protests in Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman sits in front of a riot police cordon after a standoff in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Supporters of the Serbian opposition clashed with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
A woman sits in front of a riot police cordon after a standoff in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Supporters of the Serbian opposition clashed with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, foreground center, speaks with police officers behind a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, foreground center, speaks with police officers behind a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
High-school students protest in front of main police station in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, March 18, 2019. Dozens of high-school students have staged a sit-down protest demanding that the authorities release from detention a fellow-student who was jailed during weekend anti-government protests in Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
High-school students protest in front of main police station in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, March 18, 2019. Dozens of high-school students have staged a sit-down protest demanding that the authorities release from detention a fellow-student who was jailed during weekend anti-government protests in Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Police create a cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Protesters throw a can at a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Protesters throw a can at a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman walks in front of a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman walks in front of a police cordon in front of the Belgrade police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, March 17, 2019. The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were the first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)