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Serbian Pride Parade cancelled, anti-Gay demos flop
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Serbian Pride Parade cancelled, anti-Gay demos flop

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Gay Pride Parade scheduled for September 20 in Belgrade, Serbia, had to be cancelled after Serbian police refused to guarantee the participants' safety.

An anti-Gay march called by Serbian ultra-nationalists for the same day flopped, however, with only a dozen people turning out.

The next day, several nationalist groups called for rallies, which Serbian authorities broke up, arresting a reported 37 ultra-nationalists in various parts of Belgrade.

Meanwhile, a Serbian government official threatened to go to court to suppress ultra-nationalist groups.

Belgrade's first - and last - Pride Parade in 2001 fell apart in chaos as right-wing counter-demonstrators attacked the marchers and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the brawling crowds in a vain attempt to restore order.

This year's events unfolded in the context of a power struggle between Serbian President Boris Tadic - who wants his country to join the European Union - and right-wing Serbian nationalists who oppose European influences.

While EU membership would open Serbia to foreign investment and allow Serbs greater freedom to emigrate to other European countries to seek work, it would also require Serbian compliance with EU human rights standards, including protections for Serbia's LGBT community.

Even as police officials were threatening to hold Gay Pride organizers responsible for any violence that might break out at their parade, President Tadic was promising to protect them.

Tadic ally Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic met with the Pride organizers and offered them an alternate parade site away from the center of the capital.

The government's offer was rejected by Pride organizers, however.

"Pride parades are traditionally organized in the main streets of big cities," said Pride organizer Dragana Vuckovic.

It is "unacceptable" to stage the parade in a "field," she told international media.

As ultra-nationalist activists were being arrested on September 21, Junior Justice Minister Slobodan Homen told Serbian television that authorities were planning to ask Serbian courts to "ban all organizations that voice threats."

He singled out the ultra-nationalist groups Obraz (Honor) and the Serb Popular Movement 1389. "1389" is a reference to the 14th-century Battle of Kosovo, in which the Serbian army was massacred by Ottoman Turks.

The two groups had warned of violence if Gay Pride organizers went ahead with their plans for a parade. "We're expecting you" posters had been stuck around the Serbian capital.

Serb Popular Movement 1389 hailed cancellation of the Pride Parade as "a great victory for normal Serbia."

"In our city, infidels and Satanists will not pass," it added.

Also on September 21, other key officials spoke out against the nationalist groups.

Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas came out in favor of outlawing "groups and organizations that condone violence."

In spite of his refusal to guarantee protection for the Pride Parade, police chief Milorad Veljovic told Serbian television that "stricter measures" would be taken against groups inciting violence.

Homosexuality was legalized in Serbia in 1994. In 2005 an amendment to the Labor Law prohibited workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On March 26 this year, the Serbian Parliament passed a unified Anti-Discrimination Law which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all areas. Boris Tadic has been president of Serbia since 2004. He was re-elected to his second term in February 2008. Cvetkovic has been prime minister since June 2008, heading a coalition government committed to eventual Serbian membership in the EU.

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