Main | Monday, September 29, 2014

SERBIA: First Pride March In Four Years Takes Place Under Riot Police Protection

Serbia's first pride march since 2010 took place in the capital city of Belgrade this weekend as an estimated 7000 riot police with tanks blocked thousands of counter-protesters from disrupting the parade.  Pride parades had been banned due to mob violence led by neo-Nazis and members of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The activists were able to advance several hundred metres through the deserted city-centre streets, but only thanks to the protection of thousands of riot police, water cannons and helicopters. It was a rare sight for Serbia, one of the most conservative countries in Europe, to witness a march akin to those found in the more cosmopolitan cities of London and Berlin. Albeit on a smaller scale and with far more security.Belgrade’s mayor, Sinisa Mali, who joined the demonstration with foreign diplomats, said it was an opportunity to show that Belgrade is a world capital where “all citizens are equal.” Darko Pandurevic, 23, from Sarajevo, who came to show solidarity with marchers, added he felt “a little bit scared,” but believed everything would be fine. Pressure from the EU is thought to be the main reason Serbian officials allowed Sunday’s event to take place after the three year ban. The country is keen to join the organisation and wants to burnish its human rights credentials. “This is a very positive and strong message,” the head of the EU mission in Serbia, Michael Davenport, told the rally. “It is also a strong message to those using hate language.”
Many photos are here.

RELATED: In 2011 the neo-Nazi organizers of the 2010 riots at Belgrade Pride were sentenced to prison. Over 200 anti-gay protesters had been arrested at the 2010 parade.

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