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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 3 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 40
First Belgrade Pride since 2010 - 7,000 Serbian riot police protect marchers
Section One
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First Belgrade Pride since 2010 - 7,000 Serbian riot police protect marchers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

One thousand marchers attended Belgrade's first Pride Parade since the debacle of the 2010 parade in which 147 Serbian police and more than 20 civilians were injured.

This year Pride marchers were outnumbered by the 7,000 Serbian riot police who were deployed to protect the parade. After the march, the Serbian capital was put on lockdown and special forces troops and tanks took up positions in the middle of the city.

Belgrade city center was virtually deserted on September 28 as Pride marchers passed through, the Associated Press reported. While there were isolated clashes between public security forces and right-wing counter-demonstrators, no one was reported injured.

Serbian authorities had refused to permit Pride celebrations since 2010 because of the rioting that broke out then, with ultra-nationalist gangs attacking marchers as the Pride Parade was coming to an end and people were dispersing.

Serbian officials allowed a parade this year and provided extensive security under reported pressure from the European Union, which Serbia wishes to join. EU diplomats joined this year's parade.

Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali also joined the parade, marching with the foreign diplomats. It was an opportunity to show that Belgrade is a world capital where 'all citizens are equal,' he told AP.

'This is a very positive and strong message,' the head of the EU mission in Serbia, Michael Davenport, told marchers. 'It is also a strong message to those using hate language.'

In 2001, an attempted Pride Parade was broken up by an anti-Gay mob even before all the marchers had gathered in a square in the center of Belgrade. Only ordinary traffic police were on hand, and they were not equipped to protect the marchers. While 30 anti-Gay rioters were arrested, they were later released without charges.

Another attempt at a Pride celebration was not made until 2009. In that year, Serbian officials moved the site of the event from the center of Belgrade to an outlying area, under threats from extreme right-wing organizations.

In 2010, combat broke out between anti-Gay thugs and Serbian riot police, and after that, officials refused to issue permits for subsequent Pride Parades until this year.

Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, denounced the Pride Parade as a 'great wickedness and abominable vice.' The Patriarch also accused the country's LGBT community of provoking God to punish Serbia by causing widespread spring floods.

Irinej is also allied with ultra-nationalist, anti-EU forces within Serbia, and is at odds with the pro-EU Serbian government. He has said publicly that Serbia needs a king or an emperor to replace the democratic government.

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