Thousands of people poured into the streets Tuesday night to protest the ouster of Cosic by ultranationalist lawmakers and the beating of an SPO lawmaker by an ultranationalist in the parliament.
The demonstrators attacked the parliament building with rocks, breaking several windows. One policeman was killed and at least 37 people were injured.
It was the most serious challenge in more than two years to Milosevic, the nationalist leader who has been given primary blame for starting the wars in the breakaway Yugoslav republics of Bosnia and Croatia.
Serbian police used guns, clubs and tear gas to break up the demonstration, in a sign that Milosevic is willing to use the same strongarm tactics against opponents at home that his supporters have used in the bloody wars in Bosnia and Croatia.
"We are forced to face this power, which is no longer present only in Sarajevo and Bosnia," Vesna Pesic, a leader of the Citizens Alliance opposition group, said. "It is also here in Serbia. The latest incident has only shown that anyone who tries to chance anything will meet the same fate."
Cosic made a statement on television last night, carried only by independent Studio B and not the government-controlled station, in which he compared Milosevic's actions with those of Stalin and Tito. He said Serbia was facing a fascist dictatorship.
"Conservative and extremist parties have assumed control of the parliament, directing . . . the people toward poverty and despair and the nation toward disaster," Cosic said.
He said he had been ousted by "a state coup" organized by Milosevic, head of the Socialist Party, and Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, a man branded a criminal by many in the West for organizing a paramilitary group, the White Eagles, that has been accused of rape, pillage and murder in Croatia and Bosnia.
"We witnessed in the federal parliament a classic Stalinist act by using lies and the majority of two parties to oust the president of the republic," Cosic said. "That act causes great moral and political damage to Serbia and Montenegro."
The rump Yugoslav state consists now only of Serbia and tiny Montenegro, two republics whose inhabitants share the Christian Orthodox faith. The Socialists and Radicals forced a no-confidence vote Monday night and early Tuesday, leading to Cosic's ouster.
Central Belgrade was mostly calm yesterday, but heavily armed police patrolled the streets and kept pedestrians away from the parliament building.
The troubles began Tuesday after Mihailo Markovic, a member of parliament
from Draskovic's SPO, was attacked and knocked unconscious in a corridor of the parliament building by Radical Party member and former boxer Branislav Vakic.
Markovic was attacked after he made a speech on the parliament floor, saying he was surprised and ashamed that none of Belgrade's citizens had come to the parliament building to find out why Cosic had been ousted.
After news of the assault spread, hundreds of people descended on parliament and were joined by Draskovic and his wife.
"Belgrade! Wake up tonight! Tomorrow it may be too late," Draskovic shouted before the crowd, estimated to number at least 4,000.
The demonstrators, chanting "Rise up Belgrade," stoned the parliament building.
The action against Draskovic was so swift and forceful because while he has proved indecisive as a political leader, he is a powerful and charismatic leader of crowds. He led the last serious threat to Milosevic in 1991, when students took to the streets and the Serbian government was forced to use tanks to quell the insurrection.
Draskovic ran unsuccessfully against Milosevic for Serbian president in 1990, but stepped aside last year to allow American businessman Milan Panic, then the Yugoslav prime minister, to be the candidate. Panic was soundly defeated by Milosevic in the Serbian voting.
After police dispersed the crowd Tuesday night, about 40 armed policemen appeared at SPO headquarters at 1 a.m. yesterday and arrested Draskovic, his wife and 30 other SPO leaders, including at least two members of the parliament who theoretically have immunity from arrest.
Draskovic was taken from the building by elevator, where he was beaten. His wife was dragged down 10 flights of stairs and beaten all the way, according to SPO leaders. Outside the headquarters building, the couple were made to walk through a cordon of police who beat them with clubs.
Danica Draskovic was allowed one telephone call early yesterday in which she told her sister that she saw her husband dragged around the courtyard of the police station and "beaten like an animal."
Draskovic was taken to the hospital yesterday by wheelchair for treatment of what doctors described as a broken jaw. Some teeth were knocked out, and he was described as having bruises all over his body. A doctor said Draskovic fainted several times during examination.
He was returned to jail yesterday afternoon and denied access to his lawyer. His wife has not been heard from since her call to her sister.
A lawyer for the SPO said he was told by police that Draskovic could be held for three days without formal charges being lodged. There was speculation in Belgrade yesterday that the government might try to put him on trial as early as today.
A police statement said Draskovic was accused of attacking and seriously wounding a policeman. The police also said 121 protesters had been arrested.
Among the injured were 14 policemen, according to the statement. Five people, including three police, suffered gunshot wounds.