Europe

Serbs protest demolitions for UAE-investment project

  • A man wears a balaclava as he and others chant slogans during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Several thousand gathered in central Belgrade to protest the controversial demolition of buildings in a city district designated to be developed by a consortium from the United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

    A man wears a balaclava as he and others chant slogans during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Several thousand gathered in central Belgrade to protest the controversial demolition of buildings in a city district designated to be developed by a consortium from the United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • Protesters carry a banner that reads "Don't Drown Belgrade" in Serbian Cyrillic during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Several thousand gathered in central Belgrade to protest the controversial demolition of buildings in a city district designated to be developed by a consortium from the United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

    Protesters carry a banner that reads "Don't Drown Belgrade" in Serbian Cyrillic during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Several thousand gathered in central Belgrade to protest the controversial demolition of buildings in a city district designated to be developed by a consortium from the United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)  (The Associated Press)

Thousands have joined the latest in a series of protests in Belgrade triggered by recent shady demolitions in a popular city area marked for a United Arab Emirates-financed real estate project.

More than 5,000 people demanded Saturday that the Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali resign and that those behind the nighttime destruction in April of a block of houses by a group of masked men be punished.

The citizens' protests sparked by the demolitions have become a challenge to Prime Minister-designate Aleksandar Vucic, who faces accusations of hardline rule despite promising to take Serbia toward integration with the European Union.

Some protesters wore balaclavas to mock the demolitions and blew horns and whistles. Vucic's ruling Serbian Progressive Party dismissed the gathering as a "circus" organized by the opposition parties.