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International News - Rex Wockner
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Police prevent attacks on Budapest pride march
A heavy police presence prevented widespread violence at Budapest's 14th Gay pride parade September 5.

About 2,000 people marched down a boulevard that was, due to a security cordon, largely devoid of spectators, said correspondent Andy Harley of UK Gay News.

One man broke through the cordon and popped some marchers' balloons and tried to snatch away flags.

In other incidents, a British participant was punched in the face and a woman wearing an official pride T-shirt was punched, pushed to the ground and kicked by anti-Gay protesters at a train stop near the parade's endpoint.

Scuffles between riot police and hundreds of other counterdemonstrators took place outside of the cordon that encompassed Andrássy Avenue, one of the city's main streets.

Police used tear gas to control the protesters, who threw rocks and bottles at them and burned a rainbow flag.

"The cops sealed off the route - about two miles long from Heroes' Square to the Embassy Quarter through downtown," Harley said. "A block each side of the route was a 'no go' area. ... The scuffles were completely out of sight of the march."

Marcher Cary Alan Johnson, head of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

"There was a sense that while the security was appreciated, we had been cut off from the rest of the city," Johnson said. "We may have been out of the closet, but we weren't necessarily in the streets."

About 40 counterdemonstrators, many of whom were skinheads, were detained for various reasons, including carrying explosives. Charges will be filed against 17 of them, police said.

In an address to the marchers, Juris Lavrikovs of the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (aka ILGA-Europe), said: "You are not alone in your struggle for equality and respect ... and your struggle against violence and intimidation. Let's march with pride, dignity and determination. Let's show Hungary and the whole of Europe that violence, threats and intimidation will not defeat us."

Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and his wife were among those who joined the parade.

Last year, right-wing extremists attacked the parade's 1,500 marchers and fought with police afterward. Hundreds of counterdemonstrators threw rocks, eggs, bottles, firecrackers, feces, acid, paint and Molotov cocktails at the participants and the cops. They also set a police van on fire and damaged media trucks.

Around 45 of the attackers were arrested after riot police used tear gas and water cannons to subdue them. Some 25 people were injured, including several of the 2,100 police officers protecting the event. A post-parade concert was canceled.

This year's pride march received official "support" and "solidarity" from the embassies of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Human rights - including justice, equality, humanity, respect and freedom of expression - and the rule of law are the foundations upon which democratic states are built," the embassies said in a public statement. "Today, many individuals face discrimination, both systemic and overt, based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Our governments seek to combat such discrimination by promoting the human rights of all people. ... We urge all governments to ensure that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity form the basis for criminal penalties."

Other pride-week events this year included music, parties, an "antifascist demonstration," workshops, an open-mic night, a picnic and a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Károly Kertbeny, "who invented the term 'homosexuality,'" pride organizers said.

Italy sees anti-Gay crime wave
More than 1,000 people marched in Rome on September 4 in protest of an ongoing anti-Gay crime wave.

In one incident, a Gay couple was attacked outside a Gay club, allegedly by a far-right activist nicknamed "Little Swastika." According to Amnesty International, one of the victims was stabbed and required surgery to save his life.

On August 29, a nightclub that hosts a popular Gay night was set alight by someone who broke a window and tossed in a flammable liquid. Firefighters extinguished the blaze quickly.

On September 2, skinheads threw large firecrackers into a crowd in Rome's very Gay Via di San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran Street). One person was slightly injured and a scooter was damaged.

Leading Gay group Arcigay said that Italy had seen as many anti-Gay incidents nationwide by the end of August as in all of last year.

Arcigay President Aurelia Mancuso said the attacks highlight the fact that Italy desperately needs a Gay-inclusive hate-crimes law to stop "dangerous fringe elements" from thinking "they can get away with violence."

Queer culture festival in St. Petersburg
The International Festival of Queer Culture will take place September 19-27 in St. Petersburg, Russia, with support from the Swedish and Dutch consulates and local travel-book publishers.

Planned events include plays, photo exhibits, poetry readings, music performances, seminars, workshops and discussions.

A closing-night concert will feature the American pop rock group Betty along with established and emerging local bands.

"We use the term 'Queer' to go beyond LGBT-sphere and to include everyone," said the organizers. "'Queer,' in our interpretation, is rebellion against stigmas and labels. It expands the rigid frameworks surrounding social stereotypes and stereotypes of identity, sex and gender. ... The aim of our festival is to unite different people around constructive creativity, common values, and positive emotions."

Belgrade Gay film festival canceled
Serbia's first Gay film festival, scheduled for September 11-13 in Belgrade, was postponed till November on September 9.

Organizers said they feared violence from participants in a September 12 "family parade" that was organized to protest the city's September 20 Gay pride parade.

The "International Queer Film Festival" has received support from the local French Cultural Center and the British Council, said GayEcho.com.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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pictures - above: Budapest Pride 2009
below: Budapest Pride 2009
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