About 15,000 anti-government protesters gathered in downtown Belgrade Monday for a third straight day of demonstrations that already have left two people dead and at least 120 injured. Across town, the communist leadership organized a huge counterdemonstration.
About 30,000 people, many bused from factories around the state, gathered near the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers at the rally called by Serbia's ruling Socialist Party, the renamed Communists."We will prevail over those who want to destroy Serbia," exclaimed Dusko Matkovic, a deputy in the state legislature.
Serbia, Yugoslavia's largest republic, is resisting pro-democracy moves in four of the five other republics.
Hundreds of policemen wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying automatic rifles stood behind the podium as speakers criticized the opposition and the crowd clapped perfunctorily.
Earlier Monday, police fired tear gas at the anti-communist demonstrators, mostly university students, and beat some with truncheons. The protesters shouted "Killers!" "Red bandits!" and "Fascists!" at the police.
They were demanding the release of an estimated 170 people jailed in the past three days and an end to censorship imposed on Belgrade's independent radio and TV during weekend rioting.
They were also seeking the resignation of Serbia's interior minister, Radmilo Bogdanovic, whom they consider responsible for Saturday's bloodshed.
Serbia's parliament and government said they would convene emergency meetings Monday to consider the demands.